Thursday, August 30, 2012

Do's and Don'ts - Hungry Ghost Festival Pt 2

Continuing from the previous post, Hungry Ghost Festival 2012..

The 7th lunar month or more commonly known as the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival is normally regarded as not an auspicious time of the year. In the Taoist Chinese community, weddings and engagements do not take place during this month. House-moving is also out of the question. Buying property or a vehicle or even buying a bed is avoided if the custom is to be followed to the letter. Times have changed and customs like these are sometimes ignored.

For the staunchest of believers, primarily the older generation, signing contracts and agreements are also avoided. People also avoid long-distance travelling, if possible. It is believed that bad luck is associated with the month of the Hungry Ghosts, thus anything major done could face failure or will be wrought with problems. Same applies to starting a new business venture or opening shop for a new business.

Although ghosts/spirits are around during the daytime, they are believed to be more active at night. However, there are some don'ts that can be observed to prevent from bumping into them.

These don'ts are more specific to the Hungry Ghost month..

1. No Swimming. Swimming is taboo in the 7th month. Camping trips and jungle trekking are to be avoided as well.

2. No staying out late. Best to be home by 9pm. For small children, keep them off the streets especially street corners before nightfall.

3. Never pass comment or complain about the smell of burning incense or joss-paper (currency for the afterlife).

4. Do not step on or kick the offerings you find by the roadside. If stepped upon accidentally, you just need to apologise aloud to make it alright.

5. Never take any of the offerings meant for the spirits. The food spread is normally left behind after the prayers.

6. The word "ghost" is never uttered so as not to offend them as it sounds crude. They are normally referred to as "buddies" or "brothers" whose local equivalent is "ho heng tai" in Cantonese or "ho hia ti" in Hokkien.

7. Do not occupy any of the front-row seats at the Ko Tai performance. They are meant for the unseen guests.

8. Do not wear red during the Hungry Ghost Festival month as spirits/ghosts are attracted to red, so avoid anything red, including underwear.

9. Stay away from drugs and alcohol. It is easier for spirits to take over those who are intoxicated. Staying alert at all times makes it difficult for a spell to be cast on you. This one is commonsense.

10. Avoid cutting your hair, shaving, going out or hanging clothes outside at night or leave clothes outside. Not quite practical for shaving, I guess.

The following are applicable at all times:

11. If you are outside, no singing and whistling as these actions are said to attract spirits.

12. Don't answer to your name when you are out walking on your own at night. Likewise, don't call anyone by name at night in the open.

13. From young, boys (and girls alike) are often reminded not to pee anywhere they like. If one needs to go badly, one needs to cup one's hands together as in prayer and mutter an apology at the same time requesting spirits (buddies) in the vicinity to move aside.

14. Keep away from walls as it is believed that spirits like sticking to walls. You don't want to go under a tree at night either.

15. Good to leave the forehead exposed as it is believed that the light from the forehead can ward off evil spirits.

There, these are the do's and don'ts (more of them) to observe during the Hungry Ghost Festival and for other times that I know of. If you have more, please share them in the Comments box.

It is believed that women are more prone to seeing spirits than men as women are of Yin category (as in Yin and Yang philosophy) and as spirits are also Yin, both are more attuned with each other.

We are known to be afraid of the unknown thus spirits being unknown tend to make us fearful of them. In reality, spirits are more afraid of humans in the ratio of 30:70. Does this make sense.

Spirits are at their most powerful during the 7th month but if it's any consolation, those released during this month are not the harmful ones. The harmful ones are the restless spirits that roam the earth freely throughout the year which accounts for the hauntings and possessions.

It is also said that during the Hungry Ghost month, spirits of ancestors will try to contact their living descendants to either make a request or warn of an impending danger.

Most of us may never have any encounter with a spirit in our lifetime. Observing the above may be helpful to ensure an incident-free life. Call me superstitious but I choose to continue observing these do's and don'ts. Being a Chinese, they are a way of life.

I wish you all a very good and safe 7th lunar month which ends on September 15. I look forward to sunny skies again once this month is over.


  1. I love this stuff. Thanks for yet another fascinating post!

    Japan's Obon is based on the Chinese custom, but as far as I know, the only rule that applies here, too, is that you shouldn't eat the food you leave as offerings.

    PS: I've worn red, a fringe covers my forehead ... Uh-oh. I'm in trouble.

  2. wow so many pantang ah. Ya i heard about wearing red. says it attracts "them"

  3. A good reminder to all of us during this Hungry Ghost Month! But I have to say, I break a lot of such rules, although I am very strict about not whistling at night. LOL!

  4. Eee how come Bananaz missed thsi post was looking forward for it and kept a look out. Guess what they usually say 'ghost block eyes'.

  5. Eee how come Bananaz missed thsi post was looking forward for it and kept a look out. Guess what they usually say 'ghost block eyes'.