Taboos of The Hungry Ghost Festival (Part 1)


If you wake up one day with your filled with the stench of smoke and haziness tomorrow, don’t fret because it’s not that your house is on fire, or that the haze is back. Instead, it’s probably just coming from the burning of incense papers and joss sticks – and also signifying the start of the Hungry Ghost Festival.

While some people may not believe in the existence of the netherworld, here is a list of taboos that you might like to take note of nonetheless – afterall, there’s really no harm in reading…right?

1. Avoid stepping on black ashes
Most people will have heard this from their elders: Do not step on the offerings by the roadside. Yet, did you know that it’s not just about the offerings that are to be burnt or being burnt only? Yes, the black ashes that are burned count too! Apparently it is also seen as a disrespectful act by the spirits should you step on the small bits and pieces of ashes that are on the ground or in the air even. So if you see people seemingly hopping around on the sidewalks as if they are dancing, or muttering feverishly away under their breath, it isn’t that they are possessed or anything – they are just trying to avoid being disrespectful to the spirits and apologising for stepping on whatever ashes they can’t avoid!


2. Do not call out to people by their names from behind nor tap their shoulders
Like humans, there are an array of spirits. During this period of time, beside roaming everywhere on the streets, the mischievous or devious ones are always on the lookout for their next targets. If you call our your friend’s name and they respond to it, the spirits will learn not only of their name but also that they will respond when called out. Hence, the next time they see your friend, they will do the same exact thing and in your voice. Worse, if you friend gets back at you and calls your name with your back turned and you respond…

Who knows, you may hear your own voice calling yourself sometime at night.

There is also another saying that is not to tap anyone on their shoulders. The Chinese believe that for every person, there are “3 lights” that keep the spirits at bay, and 2 of them are on the shoulders. If someone taps you on the shoulders, it might put out the lights, hence making you an easy target for spirits’ mischief.

Then again, it’s also pretty scary even when humans creep up from behind you and tap you on your shoulders even…

3. Do not return home too late during this period
Sure, you may want to party on Friday nights, wind down and have a drink or two, but even so, do try not to get home too late. As per the previous point above, spirits generally target those who are alone, so if you would like to find yourself in a ghostly encounter, by all means go home late….

4. Try not to open your umbrella indoors, or leave it open at night
It is said that spirits find residences in umbrellas at times, especially against sunlight. So if you open your umbrella indoors or leave it open at night, when day time comes, they may all be hiding inside. Hence, if you happen to you it in the day, who knows, you might just find the space for shade underneath a tad too crowded for your liking…

5. Avoid going huge bodies of water during the 7th month
Whether you are thinking of going swimming or going near the waves of the seas at the beach, it is advisable that you do none of these during the 7th month. It is believed that those who may have accidentally drowned may seek victims to take their place in order for them to escape from their watery graves.