A few years back, I wrote an article about the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival but I didn’t elaborate on the don’t dos during this festival. Now, I would love to share some tips and hope everyone stays safe during this period. Even if you aren’t superstitious or don’t believe in ghosts, it is best to show respect to the Chinese culture and people who do believe while you are in Asian countries.
Every year, the Chinese Hungry Ghost festival either falls in July or August as it follows the Chinese calendar (lunisolar) rather than the more commonly used Gregorian calendar. The Chinese calendar is based on exact astronomical observations of the Sun’s longitude and the Moon’s phases. Normally, a common year has 12 months (353–355 days) and a leap year has 13 months (383–385 days). The next leap year will be in 2023 and then in 2025.
This year 2022, the first day of the festival will be between 29th July (1st day of the seventh month) and the last day of the seventh month on 26th August. The fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day which falls on the 12th of August. If you happen to visit Singapore, do look out for it and stay alert.
Here is the list:
- Don’t stay up late or go out at night unless necessary to avoid encountering ‘them’.
- Don’t take photos at night as you might photo them or even capture them into your phone/camera.
- Don’t shine your torch into trees as they might be hanging out around the trees.
- Don’t use a whistle at night as they will be attracted to you. It is like the story of Pied Piper of Hamelin. They will follow you home.
- Don’t hang/dry your clothing out at night. This is to avoid them borrowing your clothing to wear.
- Avoid wearing black clothing or fashion accessories with your own name. This is to avoid being called/approached by your name by them.
- Avoid repeatedly calling your own name or friend’s name at night. This is to avoid them calling for you. Try to call your friend by their nickname instead.
- If someone calls your name at night, avoid turning back to answer to them. If you want to check if it is your family/friend, you should turn your whole body over rather than tilting your head.
- Avoid hanging wind chimes next/above your bed as wind chime sounds will invite them over. They will then invade your dreams and give you nightmares. Or worse, they could even possess your body.
- Don’t point your slippers/shoes towards your bed or place them neatly next to your bed otherwise, they will use the slippers/shoes to determine your presence and sleep next to you. (This is one of the things to avoid while staying in a hotel – an article I wrote years ago. Never place your slippers/shoes neatly as they will wear them instead.)
- Avoid leaning on a wall. They love to hang around by walls as the wall is often cooler than other places. One of the common feng shui tips is to place ornaments or cupboards at every corner of your house to avoid ‘them’ hanging around your walls.
- Never slap anyone on the top of their shoulders as it will diminish the person’s aura/fire.
- Don’t go night swimming in a swimming pool, sea or lake etc. According to legend, the water ghost likes to pull your legs to make you drown so that they can be reborn again.
- Don’t steal or eat foods that have been offered to them.
- Don’t step on any joss papers or move around while burning. Joss paper or spirit money is to burn for ‘them’ to use. A group of them will gather around the designated metal bins provided by the town council trying to snatch the spirit money to spend while you burn it. So while burning the joss papers, you should stay still in one place and make sure all joss papers are properly burnt. Any unburned papers will not be received by them which will also anger them.
- Don’t stick your chopsticks into your bowl of rice or noodle. This should be avoided not only during the seventh month but your whole life. When we make a food offering to them, we will place two joss sticks into the urn. The chopsticks will look like joss sticks to them and you will share your food with them.
- Don’t pick coins/unique items on the road as it might be their money for the journey to come.
- Avoid saying the word ‘ghost’.
- Cover your forehead with hair to sleep. This is to stop them mistaking you as their own kind and waking you up to chat with them.
- Don’t sit on the front row of the Getai as it is reserved for them.
- Don’t go to cemetery unless necessary, especially with young children.
- Don’t try dial 777 7777. Some said this is the direct line to the hell, you might hear crying or screaming.
Whether you believe it or not, it is up to you. However, please remember these don’t dos during the Chinese Ghost month otherwise ‘they’ will come after you!