The Hungry Ghost Festival
The Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival, otherwise known as Yu Lan is celebrated with style in Chinese cultures around the world. It occurs on the fifteenth night of the seventh lunar month annually and typically coincides with the full moon.
The seventh month is traditionally called ghost month, with the mid-point or fifteenth day being the Ghost day. On this day it is traditionally believed that ghosts or spirits emerge from the lower realm and into the world of the living, including the spirits of ancestors who have passed on. Set apart from other festivals that revere and honor the deceased ancestors, on this day, it is believed that the ghosts and spirits instead visit the living, and are in search of food and traditional entertainment. Families offer prayers and offerings to the deceased to either honor them, or to ease any suffering they may experience.
Celebration of the Hungry Ghost Festival includes feasting and food offerings to the deceased as well as lighting incense and burning ritualistic joss paper in the form of worldly possessions. In keeping with Chinese culture, ancestors are revered and held in high regard even after death. Traditional family meals that are often vegetarian include places at the table for the deceased, for the purpose of honoring them as if they are still alive.
Other traditional practices include releasing paper boats or lit lanterns on the water, which is important to providing direction to any ghosts that are lost and cannot find their way. When any live performances of any kind take place, the first rows are left intentionally empty as to give a place for any spirits in attendance. Any performances take place after dark, and loud noises are intended to not only attract but please the ghosts in the area. Followers of Buddhist traditions hold rituals to ease the suffering of ghosts, with rice or other food items being released into the air for the ghosts to enjoy.
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