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Hungry Ghost Festival Offerings: The Lucky Food of the Dead

There are hungry ghosts roaming about! 

For those not yet aware, Ghost Month is that time of the year when the gates of the underworld are opened to let the spirits of the dead visit the world of the living. After a few days of wandering, however, the ghosts eventually get restless with hunger. This is why the Hungry Ghost Festival, celebrated on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month (read: August 12 this year), is held. In order to make sure the ghosts don’t go #hangry and wreck misfortune on your household, you should always prepare to pay them some respects with the right kinds of offerings.

Not sure about what kind of foods you should offer? No need to fret. Check out our list here:


1. Street Offerings for Orphaned Souls

Some lost souls don’t have any families who can wish them well, but that doesn’t mean that they have to spend the entire Ghost Month starving. In order to maintain peace and harmony, lest there be any public hauntings, street altars with plates of mantou (read: steamed buns) may be set up to give these spirits some comfort. Recently, drinks like coffee and yakult, with the latter being offered to younger ghosts, are also sometimes provided. 


Plates of mantou.


2. Round Fruits

Circles are meant to represent wealth and prosperity in Chinese culture, so having round fruits at the altar is one way to wish your ancestors some good fortune. Some popular choices are oranges and tangerines, which are doubly lucky for their bright gold-like color. 


Oranges and tangerines. Source: Eating Well


3. Pineapples & Chinese Lettuce

Pineapples may not be round, but they’re the best at inviting luck! This is because, in Hokkien, pineapples are called onglai, which means “to bring in prosperity.” Similarly, Chinese lettuce, often known by the name san choy, is a homonym for the phrase “to grow luck” in Chinese. This makes the leafy green an ideal offering for households looking for a brighter future.


San choy wraps. Source: Recipe Tin Eats


4. Meat

The best way to keep your ghostly ancestors happy is to host a grand feast, and the best way to hold a grand feast is to make sure you have some high-quality meat in it! Whether it be chicken, pork, or duck, a meaty hearty meal is the least you can do to thank the spirits for watching over your family. 


A table of offerings. Source: AshaNoriko


5. Their Favorite Foods

Of course, what are traditions and rules compared to personal favorites? Your ancestors will most likely enjoy what they best loved in life just the same in death. For example, although noodles are typically regarded as food for the living, if your deceased loved one enjoyed eating sotanghon while alive, then there’s nothing stopping you from serving up a bowl at the altar! Offering favorite foods is the perfect easy way to keep yourselves in some ghostly good graces. 


Hungry Ghost Festival offerings. Source: Mashable SEA


Looking for some more Ghost Month guidelines? Check out our article on Hungry Ghost Festival traditions here. 


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