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Spirit Festival – August 18, 2024

Ghost Festival or Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated every year in China, usually in August. This year, it falls on August 18. It is a special Chinese tradition where they honor their ancestors. The popular folk religion called Taoism includes days regarding dead people and their ghosts. These ghosts can be thousands of years old. It is believed that the spirits visit in the seventh month of the lunar calendar. For this occurrence, people usually need to take special precautions and perform certain ceremonies. The festival is observed by many people around the country. It is a tradition that is still observed today.

History of Spirit Festival

Ghost Festival is a holiday that usually takes place on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. This day usually falls in August in our Western calendar. It is traditionally observed by people in China. Ghost Festival is just one of the numerous traditional festivals in China that are dedicated to worshiping ancestors. Some of the other festivals include the Spring Festival, Double Ninth Festival, and the Qingming Festival.

During the Ghost Festival, people perform unique ceremonies to avoid the wrath of the spirits. People are known to burn incense while they put the ancestral tablets of the family on a table and prepare meals three times that day.

The main ceremony, which is usually held at dusk, is when they put out plates of food for the ghosts on the table. Here, the people kowtow, reporting their behavior to their ancestors expecting to either receive a blessing or punishment from them. This night is also known for feasting. A place is sometimes left open at the table for a lost ancestor.

There is a belief by some people in China that the ghosts of Chinese ancestors are let out as realms of the living, Heaven, and Hell is open on the first day of Hungry Ghost Month. The seventh lunar month has been considered to be the scariest month of the year by the Chinese for thousands of years. The spirits are believed to roam around looking for entertainment and food. During this time, many fearful Chinese people try to avoid swimming. They also avoid being alone at night out of fear that an enemy ghost may harm them.

In other Asian countries where this festival is observed, live performances are held to which everyone is invited. However, they usually leave the first row of seats as they believe the visiting ghosts are meant to sit there.

Spirit Festival timeline

2100 — 221 B.C.
Ancestor Worship Begins

Historical records show the first activities of ancestor worship in autumn during the pre-Qin period.

618 B.C.
There is advocacy for Taoism

The Tang Dynasty advocates Taoism and the Festival begins to flourish.

221 B.C.
The Emperor Partakes

Ancestor worship is observed by emperors and princes.

206 B.C. - 220 A.D.
The Han Period

The composition of texts and poems to pay tribute to dead family members begins.

The Catholic Ban

The Vatican issues an edict to stop ancestor worship, which the Chinese authorities discarded.

Spirit Festival FAQs

What countries celebrate Ghost Festival?

The Hungry Ghost Festival is commonly observed in Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

Can I cut my hair during the seventh month?

The Chinese discourage cutting hair once night falls to avoid ghosts from causing any accidents.

What do people eat during the Hungry Ghost Festival?

Three bowls of rice, three sets of chopsticks, and three cups of Chinese tea can be found in Ghost Festival altars to traditionally symbolize the realms of heaven, earth, and the underworld.

What do I burn for the Hungry Ghost Festival?

It consists of joss paper ingots, money, and traditional clothes.

How to Observe Spirit Festival

  1. Learn about China

    Learning more about China will help you discover more about their people and culture. It is a culture with a rich and vibrant history and any scholar would be enthralled with discovering more.

  2. Remember an ancestor

    You can use the holiday as an opportunity to remember or honor a lost family member. There is no better way to honor life than through celebration.

  3. Eat Chinese food

    Feasts are an important part of the festival. You can enjoy some Chinese cuisine to celebrate the festival.

5 Amazing Facts About Spirits

  1. Pond Square in London's Highgate

    A half-naked, half-frozen chicken haunts the area of Pond Square in London's Highgate.

  2. Spirits can be pictured

    It is believed that using a high-definition full spectrum camera at night can capture spirits.

  3. Spirits can haunt devices

    It is believed that taking pictures of spirits can invite them to haunt the devices.

  4. Spirits can bring misfortune

    The Chinese believe that vengeful spirits can bring terrible misfortune.

  5. Leg hair can scare away spirits

    Chinese folklore believes that each strand of leg hair can scare away three ghosts thereby protecting the person.

Why Spirit Festival is Important

  1. It maintains tradition

    The holiday has been a part of Chinese culture for many years. It helps to maintain traditional beliefs.

  2. It honors the dead

    The holiday is a way for people to honor those who came before them. This way, they can stay accountable to them.

  3. It creates unity

    The holiday is observed by believers around the country. Having similar beliefs and practices helps create unity among people.

Spirit Festival dates

2022August 12Friday
2023August 30Wednesday
2024August 18Sunday
2025September 6Saturday
2026August 27Thursday

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