Yes! A festival for the Ghosts in Taiwan!
Isn’t it scary to know that there is a festival dedicated to ghosts??
People in Taiwan do celebrations to appease the spirits roaming around them during this festival. They feed these hungry ghosts with offerings of special food and conduct entertainment events in their country.
Although, Taiwan (ROC) is an independent Asian country and part of a string of small islands neighboring South China Sea. Taiwan is home to 23 million people (almost the same as India’s capital city Delhi’s population), and very rich when it comes to art. Their profound art catches the attention of travelers all around the globe.
Be it music, dance, handicraft, or even the folk art, the people of Taiwan have displayed an exceptional pool of talent. Besides this, Taiwanese are incredibly superstitious. Taiwanese believe in ghosts and spirits. Although, they are afraid of them and have many myths related to those paranormal things. Still they have a festival dedicated to them.
Though, the charm of the festival can be seen throughout the island, but the go-to spot for the travelers is Taiwan’s northern port city of Keelung. The festivities of the ghost month can be experienced to a large extent at this place.
When do they celebrate the Ghost festival?
According to Taiwan’s lunar calendar, around August end (the seventh month) they celebrate “The Hungry Ghost Festival” for about 15 days. In 2020, 2nd September is the 15th day of the festival. Tourists in Taiwan notice the buzz of this festival and no doubt return amazed during this ghost month.
What are the beliefs related to the Hungry Ghost festival in Taiwan?
It is crazy to see that the ghost festival is celebrated for almost 15 days every year and still they call this period inauspicious. During this festival, people take various precautions as they believe that the restless and malignant (evil) ghosts emerge out of the hell gates to haunt the world.
Local people of the country exhibit prohibitions to their normal routine work and avoid special occasions like weddings, new baby born celebrations, or starting a new business.
In Taiwan, people burn “ghost money” every month in temples as an offering to their deceased (dead) family members for their afterlife expenses. If anyone neglects this ritual for any ghost or there is no heir or living relative left to do the same, the neglected ghost comes out of the hell being playful and do evil pranks with the humans.
Believers says that in addition to causing trouble, the paranormal spirits visit their families and roam around in search of food, entertainment, and money. Therefore, their families burn two types of ghost money in temples. Yellow with gold print for the Gods and yellow with silver print for their ancestor’s spirit.
Why is the Ghost festival celebrated?
The Ghost Festival is celebrated to appease the ghosts of the dead people who returned to the earth during the end of the seventh month of the lunar calendar.
In Taiwan, it is believed that, every year, the spirits of the people who died sad, unexpectedly, and forgotten after the death by their families, walkout from their paranormal states during this period. Therefore, to address these spirits with respect, people visit temples, pray for them, and burn incense and ghost money (Joss paper) so that their ancestor’s spirit can purchase day-to-day necessities in the afterlife.
Though, it sounds very strange to us but it is truly believed by them. No offense but why would a ghost need money?
Who celebrates this festival of ghosts in Taiwan?
“Chiu Chow community” of Taiwan, celebrate this festival and host different events in many parts of the country to honor the spirits. The event includes opera performances, dance parade, puppet show, lion dances, and live singing. These activities are dedicated to the ghosts, therefore, the front row seats are kept reserved for them during this festival.
Like Taiwan, where else the Hungry ghosts festival is celebrated?
- Japan – Obon festival – on 13th August 2020
- Korea – Miryang Baekjung festival – on 2nd September 2020
- Vietnam – Tết Trung Nguyên festival – on 2nd September 2020
- Cambodia – Pchum Ben festival – on 16th September 2020
- Laos – Boun Khao Padap Din festival – on 2nd September 2020
- Sri Lanka – Mataka dānēs festival – on 2nd September 2020
- Thailand – Sat Thai festival – on 25th September 2020
- China – Zhongyuan festival – on 2nd September 2020
- Indonesia – Cioko, or Sembahyang Rebutan festival – on 2nd September 2020
- India- Shraddha (not as a festival but a ritual to feed the spirits).
Also read: Why, Ladakh need attention now?
What are the dos and don’ts during the Hungry Ghost festival?
During this festival, people avoid doing some activities just to stay safe from naughty spirits. Especially, after sunset, they make sure not to indulge in such activities which can bring misfortune to their life. These include:
- They don’t leave their clothes outside to dry because they believe that a ghost passing by might try them. If any of the ghost touches their clothes, the negative energy of the ghost will remain in them.
- Offerings kept for the hungry ghosts are not disturbed or swept up before sunrise.
- Beaches tend to be vacant during the festival. It is believed that the spirit of the deceased swimmer might attempt to trap them underwater.
- They don’t lean against the wall as spirits are believed to be inside them.
- Urinating on a tree is an offense to the spirits living inside the tree.
- They are afraid of taking pictures after sunset as they could capture a ghost.
- They don’t leave the main door of the house open at night. It is an invitation for ghosts to enter.
- No marriages or ceremonies are arranged during this month.
- People don’t forget to switch on bright lights at home, in balconies and other areas nearby.
What happens during Ghost Month?
Many rituals and ceremonies take place during the festival for the ghosts in Taiwan cities.
Here are some:
- Taiwanese sprinkle rock salt on the floor outside their front door to keep ghosts outside the house.
- Ghost lanterns are hanged at the entrance of the house to light the path for the visiting spirits.
- Fresh fruits and candles are kept on small tables outside their house and shops as offerings to the hungry ghosts.
- They burn incense and Joss paper (ghost money) for the prosperity of the spirits of their ancestors.
- They also release small lotus-shaped lanterns out into the ocean or rivers. Each lantern holds a candle that helps the spirits back to the underworld.
- The priests and monks perform rituals to relieve ghosts from their sufferings.
- During the festival, most of the shops are kept closed in Taiwan to keep the streets clean and open for the passing by ghosts.
How the ghost festival ends?
There is a very famous temple in Keelung (city in northern Taiwan) named “Lao da Gong Temple“. On the last day of the festival, the gates to hell at this temple get closed officially. People of Taiwan make sure that they have paid proper homage to the hungry ghosts and prayed for their peaceful return to their underground world before ending this festival.