Hungry Ghost Festival 2022 (Ghost Month 2022)

Written by author nickname Updated Aug. 2, 2022

The Hungry Ghost Festival is one of the most important traditional festivals in China. It is also named Zhongyuan Festival by Taoists, or Yulanpen Festival by Buddhists. The festival falls on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Hungry Ghost Festival 2022 is on August 12. 

Why do the Chinese celebrate the date in different ways? They believed the spirits of the ancestors would wander the living realm during the period, thus they can feed the dead to appease them.  Chinese prepare food offerings and burn Joss papers etc to honor their ancestors.

Ghost Month 2022

Ghost Month is the seventh lunar month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. It is the scariest month of the year. The Ghost Month 2022 is from July 29 to August 26, 2022.  It is believed on the first day of the month, the gates of hell open up and ghosts are free to feed and enjoy themselves for one month. On the last day of the month, the gates of Hell close up again thus spirits come back to their spiritual realm.

Chinese care for the ghosts to pay respect to their ancestors and entertain wandering spirits. People operate the celebrations on the start and end date of ghost month. The celebration reaches its peak on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. 

Misfortunes are likely to go on rising during the ghost month, such as bad health, property loss, and bad luck to families. People pay close attention to and keep vigilant about the month. During this time, it’s wise to avoid making any key milestones. Starting a new business or moving into a new house at the month isn't good. 

Top 5 Hungry Ghost Festival Dos - How Do Chinese Celebrate the Festival?

1. Putting the family’s ancestral tablets and photographs on the home altar. People will tell what's been happening to their ancestors on their knees. They hope they can receive a blessing from their ancestors in this way.

2. Preparing food offerings three times a day. Three bowls of rice, three sets of chopsticks, and three cups of wine are a must for the offering. Meats, fruits, and sweets are commonly seen too. Food offerings are put out on the altar for the ancestors first. And then the offerings will be taken outside for homeless ghosts.

3. Burning incenses, Joss papers, red candles, and so on to please the ghosts. Paper effigies include fancy cars, big houses, smartphones, and even gaming devices. People burn the items at home, outside the home, at the bridges, or in fields. Chinese people believe the ghosts will enjoy more prosperity with more paper effigies burning.

Burning incenses during the Hungry Ghost Festival
Burning incenses during the Hungry Ghost Festival

4. Holding live performances for wandering souls. The performances are free and always held at night for ghosts’ entertainment. The first and second rows of the seats are always left vacant. The seats are specially reserved for the VIP unseen ghosts. 

5. Floating water lanterns to direct the ghosts back to their realm. People float water lanterns in rivers and lakes to dispel ill-fortune and pray for blessings. The hungry ghosts will follow the lanterns and back to their spiritual realm. Bad lucks will be carried away at the same time.

7 Major Hungry Ghost Festival Don’ts

How do avoid any possible attack from the ghosts during the festival? Here are the 7 major don’ts to help you stay safe.

1. Don’t stay out too late at night, especially for children, elders, and pregnant women. During the festival, ghosts are at their strongest at night because of the Yin (阴) energy. It is wise to return home before sunset.

2. Don’t do any water activities. Water ghosts will look for victims active to reincarnate on the day. They will try to drown people in the water. Stay away from any water activities.

3. Don’t touch the food offerings. The offerings by the roadside or fields are prepared for ghosts. Touching or stepping on the offerings would ‘offend’ the ghosts.

ching ming festival
Food Offerings

4. Don't pick up money on the street. The money is to bribe the guards of hell. If you take the money, it may cause offense to them.

5. Don’t wear red or black clothing. The two colors are especially enticing to ghosts and will attract unwanted attention.

6. Don’t hang clothes outside at night. It is said the wandering ghosts will try on the clothes and be brought inside along with the clothes.

7. Don’t open an umbrella indoors. Wandering ghosts seek shelters on the day. Opening an umbrella indoors means an invitation for them.

Hungry Ghost Festival Legends

Chinese celebrated the festival since the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). The spirits and ghosts return to roam the earth during ghost month. Those who had relatives would return home to visit the living. Their family members offer prayers, food, and drinks for them. For the homeless ghosts, no one feeds them properly. Thus they will wander around and bring potential harm and misfortunes to the living.

Taoists and Buddhists perform special ceremonies and traditions to honor the spirits of ancestors and to protect against ghosts’ attacks. People believe the dead ancestors can bless and protect them during the festival in this way.

Hungry Ghost Festival in Other Asian Counties

Singapore and Malaysia

Singaporeans and Malaysian please the ghosts with live performances. The activity will last the whole seventh month of the lunar calendar. The shows include Chinese operas, songs, dances, and so on. Show times are from 8:00 at night to 12.00 AM midnight. Don’t sit the seats in the first row; they are left empty for the ghosts.

Japan

In Japan, the Ghost Festival is also known as oben Festival. It is a traditional Buddhist custom to remember the ancestors. The festival lasts for three days, from the 13th to the 15th day of the 7th month. Japanese observed the festival at different times in different regions depending on calendars. On the first day, people will hang lanterns in front of houses to guide the ghosts back home. On the last day, floating lanterns are put into rivers to guide the ghosts back to their world.

Thailand

Ghost Festival (Phi Ta Khon Festival ) is a festival held in Dan Sai, Loei province, Isan, Thailand. Thais observe the festival for 3 days between March and July. In 2022, the dates are Wednesday, June 22, 2022, to Thursday, June 23, 2022. The festival is one of the most colorful sensations in Thailand. Thais will dance on the streets in beautiful and colorful costumes. Their brightly painted masks will catch your eyes easily.

Related Traditional Chinese Festivals

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