What is Hungry Ghost Month? The Ghost Festival, also known as the Chinese Ghost Festival is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist held in certain Asian countries, including Malaysia. According to the Chinese calendar, the Ghost Festival is on the 15th night of the seventh month (14th in southern China). This year, this festival was being celebrated on the last 25th August.
It is said that during this month, ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. The deceased are believed to visit the living.
According to a thread shared by @OhhB_ on Twitter, Hungry Ghost Month is when the gates of hell open and restless ghosts and tortured souls are released to emerge in the normal world as they starved for a long time. These ghosts that are released can sometimes be very aggressive and find a way to linger in the normal world longer. These ghosts are tortured souls who have no family members that will offer them any food or money and they are constantly tormented as they cannot afford to ‘bribe’ the guards of hell.
Most of these ghosts are those who have unfulfilled wishes as they died young or due to committing suicide. These ghosts are even more vengeful and scary. That is the reason people are warned to be careful on the 15th night.
To calm these souls down, offerings of foods, mooncakes, and joss sticks are made. Other than that, red lanterns are also lit in front of the house to warn these souls off. For those who are particularly weak and easily disturbed by this evil spirits, they pray to avoid any disturbances and avoid themselves from going out of the house.
Hungry Ghost Month Celebration in Malaysia
In Malaysia, concert-like performance is a prominent feature on this month. Those live concert are popularly known as ‘Getai’ in Mandarin or ‘koh-tai’ in Hokkien.They are performed by groups of singers, dancers, entertainers, and opera troops or puppet shows on a temporary stage that is set up within a residential district. The festival is funded by the residents of each individual district.
The nation’s favourite animation, Upin & Ipin had once told us about the Hungry Ghost Month Celebration in one of its episodes.
Things That Are Believed To Be Taboo During The Hungry Ghost Month
1. Don’t sit on the front row of seats at opera street performances and ‘Getai’. They are reserved for the unseen.
The front row seats are roped off and left vacant for a reason, they are specially reserved for the spirits as a form of respect. Under no circumstances should you sit on any of those seats, even if all the seats behind it are taken. You would do better to stand by the side rather than risk offending the spirits.
2. Don’t touch, step, or kick prayer items and offering for the hungry ghosts, especially those from temporary altars placed by the roadside. You should also refrain from making jokes or complaining about the prayer altars.
The temporary altars are erected to pay respects and extend offerings in order to appease the hungry ghosts. If one were to mess with the offerings or even remark unfavourably upon them, it is believed that the spirits might get offended and disturb or follow him or her back home. In the event that one were to accidentally step on them, be sure to apologise or risk incurring the spirits’ wrath.
3. Don’t stand under a tree shade or a bus stop, especially alone during the night and after bus service times.
It is believed that spirits favour the dark and cold conditions under a tree shade and bus stop, hence the spirits may follow you back home.
4. Avoid going near any body of water for the entire month. Don’t go swimming or engage in any water-related activities.
It is said that vengeful water spirits who have drowned are determined to drag the living into the water as their ‘substitute’ in death so that they can leave the place where their souls linger and be reincarnated. Another belief is that spirits favour water due to its ‘yin’ environment. It is commonly said that some swimmers who encountered “water ghosts” felt their legs being “pulled” at while they were swimming and they only managed to break free by luck or because they screamed for help or someone came to get them.
5. Don’t talk about ghosts (e.g. telling ghost stories) or worse, make fun of the supernatural.
The Chinese has a saying “Don’t talk about ghosts at night and don’t talk about humans in the day”. When two or more people group together to talk about ghost stories in the middle of the night, they will tend to attract unwanted attention from wandering spirits and ghosts. Avoid watching horror shows and talking about inauspicious topics like death, even if it’s for laughs. The reason being that you wouldn’t want the ghosts walking around to hear you making fun of them.
Well, these taboos may seems superstitious but as we live in a multi-races and a multicultural country, for me it is necessary for us to know and to respect each of other religion beliefs.
Featured Images Credit: The Malay Mail