Hungry Ghost Month

ghost month

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Hungry Ghost Month


  • In China, the Hungry Ghost Festival, otherwise known as Yu Lan takes place on the 15 of the seventh month (14 in Southern China). But the entire month is incorporated into this festival. It falls on a full moon.
  • It is believed that during this month the gates of Heaven and Hell open and spirits are able to wander the earth and visit the living in search of sustenance and entertainment.
  • The Hungry Ghosts are thought to be those who were improperly honoured at the time of their death.
  • The Japanese version of this festival is called O-bon, or Bon.
  • So what are Hungry Ghosts? The Hua-yen Sutra states that your actions during your lifetime will cause your soul to be reborn into one of six possible realms. The worst of all people will become a Hungry Ghost. Nefarious deeds such as murder, stealing and sexual misconduct are enough to damn your soul.
  • Hungry Ghosts are considered dangerous. They can adopt different shapes, from moths and birds to beautiful men and women with dark purposes.
  • Instead of ghost, people use the terms ‘backdoor god’ or ‘good brother’ to avoid offence.


  • A major part of this festival is the honouring of ones ancestors. This could include preparing feasts in their honour, burning joss paper, or even money. An empty seat for each deceased member of the family forms part of such meals and they are treated as though they are alive. Some people have even been known to burn cars or other items of significant value. Once a burning has been completed, the person should vacate the area as it may have opened a portal and the person risks being possessed or harmed.
  • Street performances and Operas are also held, but the front row is always left vacant for their supernatural visitors. These take place at night and are often very loud. They might include enacted folk tales, opera or various other things.
  • Incense is often burned at night, which represents prosperity.
  • In each street there may be offerings of food and it is important not to disturb them in any way or risk being cursed or suffering a mysterious illness.
  • Fourteen days after the festival started, water lanterns are placed outside of houses to enable the ghosts to find their way back to the appropriate realm. Once the candles are extinguished, it means the ghosts are back where they should be.
  • Other activities may include the release of small boats made from paper, which signifies guiding lost spirits home.
  • People should be home before dark and avoid walking late at night or risk possession or death.
  • Swimming is also a bad idea as spirits have been said to drown people.
  • Driving at night is avoided as to do so is to risk a spiritual collision which can lead to misfortune.
  • You should avoid wearing red or black clothing.
  • You also should avoid hanging washing out overnight.
  • You should avoid looking into a mirror between 20:00 and 8:00..
  • Do not wear any clothing that belonged to a dead person or they will come and claim you.
  • If you look into a body of water that reflects the moon then your first born child will die.
  • Some sources state that ghosts seek to take people back to hell or trade them in their place. If you hear whistling behind you, then you should never turn around.
  • You should avoid empty, desolate places.
  • People don’t get married, or move home and avoid making new business dealings. It is also taboo to give birth or have your hair cut.




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As always, if you have stories about this festival or would like to make any corrections to the information supplied then please contact me. I’d also love to hear about any local festivals you might practice or know about.

Did you enjoy reading about this festival? I am attempting to create more posts about festivals from around the world.


3 thoughts on “Hungry Ghost Month

    • You are most welcome 🙂 Thank you for the comment.

      I read the tag line a while ago on a post titled creepy quotes and it stayed with me ever since. The sort of thing I seem to think when walking alone on lonely roads late at night.

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