Hong Kong Hungry Ghost Festival 2023

Hong Kong Hungry Ghost Festival 2023

If you’re looking for cultural things to do in Hong Kong, it’s always a good idea to explore these beautiful Chinese temples, pick up your next reads at these Hong Kong bookstores, or check out different art galleries in Hong Kong. Starting at the end of August this year, the Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated largely by the Chiu Chow Community, and along with Chinese opera and the burning of paper gifts, there’s a list of things you should and shouldn’t do to not upset our spirit brothers and sisters.

According to Chinese believes, Ghost Month is the seventh month of the Lunar calendar. It is a time when hungry restless ghosts wander around the living world and for people to make different offerings to appease them. The Hungry Ghost Festival marks the middle of Ghost Month, and most of the activities are held particularly on this day. The festival is held at about 60 places all over Hong Kong.

Visitors can see small roadside fires, where believers burn paper money to gratify hungry spirits. Chinese opera, incense offerings, and dragon and lion dances with plenty of noise to scare away hungry ghosts are held in parks and plazas throughout the city.

During the Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong, people burn special origami paper gifts which look like clothing, household items and electronics, so don’t be surprised if you smell fire on the street or in your apartment block premises. Special sheds are installed all over Hong Kong so that believers can worship the gods and make offerings. At night, operas are performed everywhere on the streets, but the front row of seats is always empty because it is reserved for the ghosts.

The festival was named part of China’s intangible cultural heritage. Its origin dates back more than 2,000 years. It is widely celebrated by the Chiu Chow community in Hong Kong, which traces their roots to Guangdong province. Hungry Ghosts Month is celebrated by both Buddhists and Taoists. During the time of the festival, it’s not recommended to wear black or red, as these colors attract ghosts. Avoid the number 4 as it sounds like the word death in Cantonese. Also one is to avoid water and not to sleep facing a mirror because it is believed to attract evil spirits.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t touch the food offerings and apologise if you kick them accidentally
  • Don’t stand your chopsticks vertically into your rice as it resembles incense used when praying to spirits, and the starving ghosts might think you’re inviting them to your meal
  • Don’t wear large amounts of black or red, as these two colours are believed to attract ghosts
  • Avoid the number four as this sounds similar to the word for death in Cantonese
  • Keep your selfies to a minimum unless you want to invite unexpected mysterious photo-bombers
  • Keep away from the water if you can as they say water spirits might drown people in order to reincarnate
  • Don’t move to a new house, start new businesses or marry as this is considered to be an inauspicious time
  • Don’t pick up money found on the street, and if you do, never bring any home as it is believed cash is used to bribe the guards of hell and, if you offend them, they might make the afterlife hard for you
  • Don’t sleep facing the mirror or anything reflective as it attracts spirits
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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more than fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on www.asianitinerary.com

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