The Chinese Ghost Festival

When the seventh month of the lunar calendar breaks in China, according to Chinese belief, the spirits and souls of the deceased move through the streets. On the first day of the so-called Ghost Month, the gates of the underworld open and allow the dead entry into the world of the living. Until the 15th day, they can then walk among the people – then close the gates again until next year. But the ghosts are not just wandering around, they are searching for their survivors. To make their way to their former home, the families set candles, lure them with music and show them the way with lanterns floating in rivers and lakes. Since the spirits have a very long wait behind them, they are satisfied with offerings. They are often provided with food to give them new energy. Another widespread ritual is the burning of death money, which is made especially for this purpose. According to popular belief, their destruction grants the deceased a better life in the underworld.

On the 15th day of the Ghost Month, where Zhongyuan Jie Ghost Festival is celebrated, the numerous ceremonies culminate. The feast in our western calendar always falls on one day in August or September. Then the hopefully well-tuned spirits go back to the underworld. In some cities of China on this day even large city festivals are held with impressive theater performances and operas. In part, the party is celebrated but only in a small frame. Many families keep the dead a place at their dinner table that evening and serve them finest food. Many Chinese go to great lengths to meet the needs of the ghosts, because tradition says that to whom the spirits of the ancestors are in good mood, they will bring good luck.

In the more modern cities of China, however, the ghost festival is increasingly forgotten. One reason is that it is not a public holiday and secondly, its origins are very diverse and no longer known to large parts of the population. The festival is now celebrated by the younger generation as a kind of Halloween, that is, as a scary costume party. With fear and terror, the original ghost party has nothing to do. Rather, it is about respecting the deceased and commemorating them.

When does the Ghost Festival take place according to our calendar?

2018: 25. August
2019: 15. August
2020: 02. September
2021: 22. August
2022: 12. August

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