A Gweilo's Guide to Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong
Hong Kong/ Ohana/ Family

A Gweilo's Guide to Hungry Ghost Festival, Hong Kong’s Superstitious Affair

A Gweilos Guide to Hungry Ghost Festival Hong Kongs Superstitious Affair

Whether you dropped down in the Victoria Harbour 25 years ago with eternal hope of your new home, or recently found yourself thriving in the Pearl of the Orient, you may still have not shaken that classic Gweilo identity and perspective of Hong Kong.  Are you not fully clued up on what our Chinese festivals mean or what to do for Hong Kong’s big calendar events? We’re here to help with our Gweilo’s Guide

A Gweilo's Guide to Hungry Ghost Festival, Hong Kong’s Superstitious Affair

What is Hungry Ghost Festival?

Known as Ghost Festival or Zhongyuan Festival, the Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Taoist and Buddhist festival held in Hong Kong and across East Asia, held typically on the 15th night of the seventh month.

Distinct from Qingming Festival, where the living descendants visit and pay homage to deceased ancestors, Hungry Ghost Festival is seen as a time when the deceased visits the living.

How do we celebrate Hungry Ghost Festival?

It is believed that the gates of hell are open, and ghosts are free to roam the world, eating and entertaining themselves. The ghosts are believed to be hungry and seek to visit their living ancestors, who did not pay tribute to them in previous festivals.

To ward off evil ghosts, living family members burn joss paper, provide food and drink offerings in their homes, streets and villages, and set off lotus-shaped lanterns on rivers to guide lost souls and the dead back to the afterlife.

A Gweilo's Guide to Hungry Ghost Festival, Hong Kong’s Superstitious Affair

What kind of superstitions must I be aware of during Hungry Ghost Festival to avoid bad luck?

During a time when ghosts are running around Hong Kong seeking to avenge their family members who didn’t wish them well earlier in the year, it’s a good idea to read up on the bad superstitions to follow to ensure you survive Hungry Ghost Festival without bad luck.

  • Don’t kick food offerings, otherwise the ghosts will get angry
  • Avoid the number four, as the Cantonese pronunciation sounds like death
  • Don’t whistle at night, as it may sound off ghosts nearby
  • Don’t sleep facing a mirror, as it attracts evil spirits
  • Avoid taking selfies, because it may invite mysterious ghost photo-bombers to hurt you
  • Wear anything but black or red, as those colours are said to attract ghosts
  • Avoid going near water, as the water spirits may drown people to reincarnate themselves

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