11 Hungry Ghost Festival facts you should know

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Learn about some Hungry Ghost Festival facts while celebrating this annual celebration. If you live in Singapore, you probably know what the Hungry Ghost Festival is all about. While Americans have Halloween, Singaporean people have the Hungry Ghost Festival.

The Hungry Ghost Festival is also known as Zhong Yuan Jie in Chinese. It is one of several important festival dates of Ghost month. People celebrate it during the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

Celebrants honour the ghost of their ancestors that roam during this time of the year. They also believe that the Gates of Hell open and the spirits can enter the earth.

This year, the Hungry Ghost Festival falls on the Aug 12. Do want to know more about it? Here are 11 facts and superstitions that you and your kids might want to know:

11 Hungry Ghost Festival facts for you and your kids

Hungry Ghost Festival 2022

The Gates of Hell will open on the 29th of July this year. On this day, Buddhists and Taoists believe that spirits can enter the earth.

Meanwhile, the 12th of August shall be the exact date to celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Spirits roam in the streets

Once the Gates of Hell open, people believe that hungry spirits will begin roaming around the streets. Some spirits become hungry because they might not have descendants to offer food to them.

Aside from food, spirits may do several things while they are free to roam on earth. It could be observing people or visiting their descendants.

PHOTO: Unsplash

The two origin stories

The Hungry Ghost Festival has two origin stories. The first one is the story of Mu Lian, a disciple of Buddha. Her mum is one of the hungry ghosts, and Buddha thought him how to make offerings through food and prayers.

The other story is from the Tang Dynasty, an imperial dynasty of China.

Activities during the festival

There are things that people do during the Hungry Ghosts Festival:

  • People, especially Singaporeans and Malaysians make offerings on the first, 15th, and last day of the month.
  • Singaporeans burn the offerings in a bin. They also make and buy foods that serve as their offerings.

People are continuously doing these practices to make sure that roaming spirits would have something to eat. In that way, spirits will no longer need to go inside your home and steal food.

Entrepreneurs also make some offerings

PHOTO: Unsplash

Entrepreneurs believe that this festival has something to do with their businesses. Some of them believe that roamings spirits are capable to be circuit breakers of businesses. Concerning this, they will burn offerings as well.

Some business owners honour the annual festival by coming up with unique offerings to the spirits. Most would offer their bestselling goods while others line up treats like durian and fast food favourites.


A taboo is something that is not acceptable to do or talk about. During the Hungry Ghost Festival, there are several taboos that people keep on observing up to this day.

If you wish to celebrate the festival with locals, we encourage you to catch up on your knowledge of Hungry Ghost Festival facts. Certain countries follow different traditions and superstitions when celebrating this annual celebration. Below are some examples:

  • Avoid taking pictures of walls or narrow alleys
  • Don’t leave your laundry to dry on the clothesline during the night
  • Face your slippers away from your bed
  • Schedule your bus or train ride before the last trip of the day
  • Take pictures of the festivities during the day

Each mentioned taboo plays a role in the annual Hungry Ghost Festival. If you take note of these warnings, you might end up welcoming the spirits to stay with you.

Celebration varies on culture

The celebration varies depending on the culture. While Malaysia and Singapore have almost similar ways, other countries like Taiwan and Japan celebrate it in different ways.

Taiwanese focuses on lamps and lanterns, while Japanese people are much more focused on giving gifts.

The scariest day

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Elders believe that the 15th is the scariest day of the month. On the night of the 15th, ghosts and evil spirits will gather and they are more hungry, looking for food and entertainment.

Getai (song stage)

It is a boisterous live stage performance held during the Ghost Festival. Singaporean, Malaysian, and Indonesian celebrants often host Getai during the annual festivities.

In Singapore, they feature beloved traditional performances during the Hungry Ghost Festival. While there, expect to witness beloved local singers honouring the celebrated event.

Different terms for the festival

People call the festival in different terms as it has no official name. You may call it Hungry Ghost Month, the Seventh Month or even Ghost Month. However, you must keep in mind where you are in the world.

Not all countries that celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival allow the calling of different names. Because of this, we suggest you take note of where you will be celebrating this yearly event.

Superstitions during the Hungry Ghost Month

Aside from the taboos we mentioned, we want you to take note of the superstitions surrounding our Hungry Ghost Festival facts. Here are some seventh-month superstitions that you might want to know about:

  • Killing insects. It is because some believe that insects are their ancestors.
  • Avoid staying out too late. Some stories and tales serve as a warning not to get home late. If this is unavoidable, we suggest you book a stay at a nearby hotel.
  • Water activities. People believe that water will be filled with spirits who died from drowning.
  • Stepping on offerings. This is known to offend the spirits.
  • Pregnant mums and kids should avoid seventh-Month Festivals. During the festivities, expecting mum and children might attract spirits by attending the annual festivals. Because of this, locals avoid bringing their kids and pregnant wives to celebrations surrounding the event.
  • Hide your wind chimes. People say that wind chimes attract spirits. Two metals hitting each other could serve as an invitation to them.

ALSO READ: 7 things to avoid during the Hungry Ghost Festival

This article was first published in theAsianparent.