A complete Guide to Hungry Ghost Festival Hong Kong
The Hungry Ghost Festival, also known as the Yulan Festival, the Zhong yuan Festival, or simply the Ghost Festival, is a tradition celebrated in many East Asian countries year, in the seventh month of the lunar calendar by Buddhists and Taoists. They prepare offerings to ward off the spirits of the dead, who are believed to roam freely among the living.
It is a popular belief that on this specific date, the Hell Gates open, allowing spirits and ghosts from the underworld to come to Earth and visit departed relatives and friends. Even though the Hungry Ghost and other Chinese festivals dedicated to paying homage to ancestors share a reverence for the dead, the two festivals should not be confused.
Everything About the Hungry Ghost Festival
- Everything About the Hungry Ghost Festival
- What is the origin of this festival?
- Where Does the Hungry Ghost Festival Actually Take Place?
- When is the Hungry Ghost Festival this year?
- Hong Kong’s Hungry Ghost Festival traditions
- Where Does the Hungry Ghost Festival Take Place?
- Things to do at hungry Ghost Festival
- Helpful hints about the Hungry Ghost Festival
What is the origin of this festival?
Most people associate this festival with China, but its roots go back to ancient India. As recounted in the Yulanpen Sutra, or Ullambana Sutra, when Maudgalyayana went to search for his parents’ graves, he found that his dear mother had undergone rebirth into the realm of the hungry ghost, starving. As she transformed into a preta (a ravenous ghost), he attempted to feed her, but before she could consume it, the food turned into an inferno. To help Maudgalyayana and her family’s grief, Buddha advised him to bring food to give to the monks on Pravarana, day fifteen of the seventh lunar month.
Where Does the Hungry Ghost Festival Actually Take Place?
It is most popular in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. Similar traditions are observed in Cambodia, Laos, and Sri Lanka.
When is the Hungry Ghost Festival this year?
2022’s “Ghost Month” takes place from July 29th to August 26th. The festival will take place on Friday, August 12th, this year.
Hong Kong’s Hungry Ghost Festival traditions
When offering offerings to deceased relatives, the Chinese are likely to stick to their cultural belief in filial piety. Offering fresh food and incense to altars or ancestor shrines is a common practice for families with such shrines in their homes.
For those who wish to ensure the material well-being of these souls even while they are tormented in hell, there are also more elaborate offerings. There are a wide variety of paper dummies for sale, including automobiles, mansions, television sets, and clothing. Burning paper effigies depicting the latest technology like tablets, smartphones, and even gaming consoles have become popular in recent years as a way for people to keep up with the times.
Aside from the offerings and remembrances, live performances are held to entertain the deceased’s souls. There are always empty seats in the first few rows of seats reserved for the souls of the deceased at these spectacular shows, which are always organized during nighttime. Ceremonies to appease the spirits of Buddhism or Taoism are held all day, and incense and spiritual scriptures are used to do so. Rice or other food items, like dumplings and buns, are often thrown into the air during these ceremonies to symbolically distribute them among the deceased.
First day of the hungry ghost festival
This day, people burn fake paper money outside their homes, businesses, or along the roadside. It’s common for them to do this in temples. In China, you’re likely to see people engaging in this ritual or find the ghost money on the ground with ashes and remains around it.
Additionally, people may light incense and offer food as offerings to the hungry and wailing ghosts. People put their faith in the ghosts, believing that after eating their offerings and holding their cash, they will not do them harm or curse them.
People gather in the streets and markets to celebrate the festival during street and market ceremonies. Monks in temples plan fun festivities for special occasions like weddings and funerals. Many believe that appeasement of ghosts is necessary to avoid a ghost attack.
Hungry Ghost Month’s Final Day
A special festival is also held on the final day of the seventh lunar month. Once again, the gates of hell have been locked. People mark this day in a variety of ways. For the sake of the ghosts, many people burn more paper money and clothing. Pictures and tablets of ancestors can be returned to their original locations on the shelves or walls.
Taoist monks use chanting to frighten the ghosts away. The screams and wails of the ghosts are believed to be a form of protest against the noise.
Where Does the Hungry Ghost Festival Take Place?
On a bamboo stage in Victoria Park, the Chinese opera will be performed, as well as historical displays of the festival’s evolution over the years and various competitions for festival-related prizes.
Committees will be set up in every neighborhood in Hong Kong to plan smaller-scale celebrations. These are typically found in sports fields or amusement parks like:
- The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park in Sai Ying Pun
- Po On Road Playground in Cheung Sha Wan
- Bridges Street in Sheung Wan,
- Sha Tin Sports Ground
- Hong Ning Road Playground in Kwun Tong,
- Carpenter Road Park in Kowloon City
- Argyle Road Playground in Kowloon City
- King George V Memorial Park in Jordan,
- Tai Wo Hau Playground in Kwai Chung,
Things to do at hungry Ghost Festival
Make a pilgrimage to a temple.
Invoke the temple deity’s protection on the first day of Ghost Month by lighting incenses at local temples.
Light a piece of joss paper.
Burn some joss paper on sidewalks near your home or business on the first day of Ghost Month as a reverend offering to ancestors. It is customary in Chinese culture to burn joss paper in honor of wandering ghosts on the 15th of this month; a holiday celebrated as the “Hungry Ghost Festival.”
Set the dining table.
A sidewalk table with fish, chicken, vegetables, rice, fruits, salt, wine, sugar, and beer can be set up in front of your home or business. Everyone knows that those who put out the offerings eat the offerings for dinner.
Become a vegan.
During this time, Buddhists practiced vegetarianism to alleviate the deceased’s pain. Many people at least refrain from eating flesh on days 1 and 15th of this specific month. Others may continue this practice all year.
This Taoist deity specializes in subduing and defeating demons and other evil entities, so wear an amulet depicting Chung Kwei.
Make a charitable contribution.
Charitable donations and good deeds are good ways to increase your positive karma.
Set off a series of floating water lanterns.
It is customary to release water lanterns on the 14th day each month. After the parade, the lanterns get released into the sea. The further the lantern floats; the more prosperous and luckier the family will be in the coming year.
Feast during the Hungry Ghost Festival.
It’s called the “Hungry Ghost Festival” because, on the 15th of the month, people go out and set up tables of offerings covered in chicken and pork as well as rice and bun dumplings, candies, and cakes. People are expected to eat this meal for dinner, just like the previous table offering.
Fight with phantoms
The “Grappling Ghosts” festival is celebrated in Toucheng, Yilan County, and Hengchun, Pingtung County, on the last day (30th) of the month to frighten away any lingering spirits. The winning team is the one that reaches the summit first and takes the flag. The bamboo trestles of the tower are then used to throw offerings to crowds.
Jump alongside Chung Kwei
The “Jumping Chung Kwei” ritual is performed on day one of the lunar calendar’s eighth month. This ensures that no ghosts linger around after hell gates were shut. This ritual is generally performed after the other ceremonies to respect ghosts.
Helpful hints about the Hungry Ghost Festival
An angry spirit or physical possession is the worst-case scenario for accidentally offending or aggravating a spirit during an auspicious time. For this month, here are things that you must not do.
If you see food or drink on the side of the road, do not disturb it. Make a public apology if you accidentally nudge any.
Don’t put your chopsticks vertically into food. This looks like a stick of incense in the food offered to spirits, which may confuse them into thinking your food is for them. Even though this is a normal Chinese taboo, it must be specifically observed during the Hungry Ghost Festival.
Watch where you’re going, even though there are designated areas for burning hell notes and setting up offerings. You may find joss sticks or food offerings in corners, by the sides of footpaths, and beneath trees. Avoid stepping on these offerings.
Avoid rushing into the first few rows of seats if you’re attending a getai show and they’re empty.
Don’t swim. Those who have drowned are said to seek companionship in the afterlife by pulling the legs of unsuspecting swimmers in water bodies, particularly the sea.
This month-long hungry ghost festival may seem terrifying at first, but it’s important to keep in mind that all of this comes from the concepts of remembrance and love rather than fear. As far as you observe this festival with reverence, you won’t suffer any supernatural calamity during this time.