The Hungry Ghost Festival – The Chinese Halloween – Part 1/2

Halloween in America is celebrated the last day in October.

However, in China, the closest celebration to America’s Halloween is The Hungry Ghost Festival, which is celebrated the 14th or 15th night of the 7th lunar month in August. For 2011, that was August 14. In 2012, it will be August 31.

The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday celebrated by Chinese in many countries, in which ghosts and/or spirits of deceased ancestors come from the lower realm or hell to visit the living.

Buddhists from China and Taoists claim that the Ghost Festival originated with the canonical scriptures of Buddhism, but many of the visible aspects of the ceremonies originate from Chinese folk religion, and other local folk traditions (see Stephen Teiser’s 1988 book, The Ghost Festival in Medieval China).

In America, most children wear costumes and go door to door collecting free candy.  In China food is offered to dead ancestors, joss paper is burned and scriptures are chanted.

Chinese Culture.net says the Hungry Ghost Festival is “Celebrated mostly in South China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and especially in Singapore and Malaysia… It is believed by the Chinese that during this month, the gates of hell are opened to let out the hungry ghosts who then seek food.

By comparison, History.com says, “Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.”

Continued on October 30, 2011 in The Hungry Ghost Festival – The Chinese Halloween – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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