Hungry Ghost Festival – 中元节

The Hungry Ghost Festival, also called simply as Ghost Festival (Chinese 中元节 – zhongyuanjie) is one of the many traditional Chinese festivals celebrated by the Chinese communities in many countries. The festival usually falls on the 15th night of the seventh lunar month. In Chinese custom, the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar is regarded as the Ghost Month and the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is often called as Ghost Day.

It is said that during this time, ghosts and spirits come out from the lower realm and linger in our world. The Hungry Ghost Festival is the opposite of the Qingming Festival and Chung Yeung Festival, wherein living descendants visit their deceased ancestors, on Ghost Day however, it is the opposite: the deceased visit the living.

When is Hungry Ghost Festival 2013?

Hungry ghost festival 2013 / 中元节 2013 dates
In 2013, Ghost Month 2013 falls on Wednesday, 7 August 2013 to Wednesday, 4 September 2013. The 2013 hungry ghost festival / Ghost Day 2013 falls on Tuesday, 20 August 2013.

Hungry ghost festival 2012 / 中元节 2012 dates
In 2012, Ghost Month 2012 falls on Friday, 17 August 2012 to Saturday, 15 September 2012. The 2012 hungry ghost festival / Ghost Day 2012 falls on Friday, 31 August 2012.

Hungry ghost festival 2011 / 中元节 2011 dates
In 2011, Ghost Month 2011 falls on Sunday, 31 July 2011 to Sunday, 28 August 2011. The 2011 hungry ghost festival / Ghost Day 2011 falls on Sunday, 14 August 2011.

Hungry Ghost Festival in Malaysia

Malaysia celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival 2013 with a rather modernized twist. Live performances and concerts scatter around the countries’ major cities, thus making it unique and stand out among the other countries that celebrate the same festival. These live shows are locally kown as ‘Koh-tai’ by the Hokkien-speaking people. These are performed by a group of singers and dancers on a temporary stage set up within a residential district.

Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore

Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival 2013 is celebrated in similar manner with Malaysia Hungry Ghost Festival. Live shows, called getai or “stage of songs” is held in the various towns in the city state of Singapore. The festival is truly modernized by the ‘concert-like’ live performances, often with scantily clad girl performers.

Hungry Ghost Festival in Taiwan

It is believed that ghosts haunt the entire island of Taiwan during the seventh lunar month. The first day of the celebration is inaugurated by the opening of the gate of a temple which symbolizes the gates of hell. All the lamps on the main altar are lit during the twelfth day of the festival. On the thirteenth day, a procession of lanterns is held. A parade is held for releasing water lanterns is done during the fourteenth day of the festival. During the duration, incense and various foods are being offered and spirit paper money is burnt in order to please the wandering spirits. It is also believed that the addresses of houses being visited by the spirits should not be named.

Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong

Rampant are small roadside fires during the Ghost Festival 2012 in Hong Kong. Believers of the festival burn paper notes of “money” printed with various denominations and make other offerings to calm the restless spirits of their ancestors that is wandering during this time.

The Chiu Chow people of Hong Kong organized the Yu Lan Festival as a gesture for the Ghost Festival that starts from the first day of the seventh lunar month until the month?s end. The highlight of the festival is to offer different kinds of sacrifices to the ghosts of the netherworlds. Incense and joss papers are also lit; Chinese operas are opened that depicts dramas to entertain the ghosts and the distribution of free rice. These activities are usually done in parks and make shift tents around the main cities of Hong Kong. Sacrificial altars are also set up on each venue. Other performing arts and other culture related activities are also held during the festival and are mainly in Chiu Chow style.

Hungry Ghost Festival in China

As a Chinese festival, the Hungry Ghost festival truly originated from China, thought it has lost influence in many parts of China. The Chinese have followed the custom of the Ghost Festival since the Liang Dynasty in 502 AD. It was then evolved in to the present Zhogyuan Festival.

When the main festival starts, a sacrificial altar and a chair are built for the Buddhist priest and is usually placed on street entrances or in front of some villages. The statue of the King of Hell, or Di Zang is then placed in front of the chair. Under it are food offerings made out of flour made rice and peaches. On the main sacrificial altar are three spirit tablets and funeral banners.

Pigs, chicken, geese, sheep, cakes and fruits are adorned by households on the altar come after noon. On every sacrifice, the priest puts a triangular paper of three colors with special characters on the sacrificed object. After which, the priest will ring a bell to call back the souls and monks will sing chimes of incantations. Then the Buddhist priest will toss the rice and peach offerings into the air to distribute to the souls.

Happy Hungry Ghost Festival 2013 !