15 Ghost Festival dos and don’ts

News and Travel Editor

Imagine eerie, deserted streets, flecked with abandoned coins and burnt money, grand offerings of fruit and hot food, and sticks upon sticks of slowly burning incense, left to stand solitarily in the moonlight.

This is not a scene from a horror film or a nightmare, but something you can see in many towns and villages across China during the seventh lunar month, known as Ghost Month; particularly on the fifteenth day, when the Ghost Festival takes place. This year it falls on August 17th.

Around this time, the Chinese have traditionally believed that the gates of the underworld are flung open and lost spirits are free to roam the Earth amongst the living. Though most Chinese people today probably don’t lay much store by these ancient beliefs, there are some interesting taboos that some people still observe during Ghost Month.
 The aim of all these Ghost Festival dos and don’ts  is to please the dead in order to ensure they don’t bring misfortune on the Chinese people;  food is offered to spirits that might be wandering around the streets, incense is burnt as a token of prosperity and lighted paper lanterns are floated across lakes to guide the ghosts back to the underworld. Make shift paper money is also burnt, as it is believed that ghosts will be able to use this as currency when they return to the underworld.

Here are some things to do to make sure you avoid bad luck…

 

  1. Children, young adults and pregnant women should not stroll outdoors at night, as it is believed that ghosts can easily possess them
  2. Don’t try to move house, as this could invite lost spirits into your new home.
  3. Don’t hang clothes outside at night, as passing ghosts may try on the clothes and linger in them.
  4. Don’t pick up coins or money found on the street and bring it home, as ghosts will find this offensive.
  5. Don’t step on offerings by the roadside, and make sure to apologise loudly to the spirits if you do.
  6. Don’t wear red or black as this may attract ghosts who may follow you home.
  7. Don’t sing or whistle as this may attract music loving ghosts.
  8. Keep away from walls as it is believed that ghosts like sticking to and flying along walls.
  9. Whatever you do, don’t go outside at midnight as ghosts may approach you.
  10. Don’t take photographs at night as ghosts may appear on them.
  11. If someone taps you on the shoulder or calls your name from behind, do not turn around and look or answer the call, as it may be a spirit waiting to reveal itself to you.
  12. Don’t curse or talk to yourself as this may invite interaction from or offend any eavesdropping ghosts around you.
  13. Don’t kill insects like moths, butterflies, or grasshoppers in the house as they may be manifestations of passed ancestors visiting their family home.
  14. Avoid leaving the main door to your home open at night, as this could invite unwanted ghosts into the premises.
  15. Don’t poke chopsticks vertically into rice as this can look like the incense used when praying to ancestral spirits. A ghosts may think that you’re inviting them to share your meal.

You have been warned!

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