The Chinese Festival — Ghost Festival

Ghost Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month and is also known as the Zhongyuan Festival, Almsgiving to the Wandering Ghosts, Ghost Day, Earth God's Birthday, and Amnesty Day. It is a traditional folk festival filled with a sense of gratitude. On this day, people honor their ancestors, perform rituals for wandering spirits, and seek blessings for peace and happiness. This reflects the deep respect and filial piety towards ancestors, as well as a profound appreciation for life. 
The Chinese Festival — Ghost Festival

As the lunar fifteenth day of the seventh month approached, Dawn and Daybreak witnessed their grandparents and parents busily preparing for ancestor worship and the Purification. 

"Both of you, hurry up, wash your hands, and come to pay respects to our ancestors," urged their mother. With offerings arranged on the ancestral altar, the entire family gathered to commence the ancestral worship ceremony. Grandpa softly prayed, "Today is Ghost Festival. May our ancestors enjoy the offerings and bless our family with peace and health." 

"Grandpa, I've heard of the Mid-Autumn Festival, but what is Ghost Festival? It sounds unfamiliar," curiously asked Dawn.

The Chinese Festival — Ghost Festival

Grandpa, while assisting with the offerings, explained, "Ghost Festival originates from Taoism's Earth God Amnesty Day. Taoism believes that on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month, the Earth God descends to pardon sins and rescue sentient beings. Hence, people perform rituals to honor the Earth God, seeking forgiveness and protection." 

"Not only in Taoism," added Grandma, "but there's also a Buddhist interpretation. Ghost Festival is derived from Ullambana, a significant Buddhist festival dedicated to relieving the suffering of sentient beings. Legend has it that the Buddha's disciple, Mulian, rescued his mother from hell, leading to the establishment of Ullambana." 

"Wow! Such a rich festival! I've never heard of it before," nodded Daybreak, as if grasping the meaning of Ghost Festival. 

At noon, the family enjoyed a sumptuous lunch. Observing another table set with offerings, Daybreak asked, "Didn't we finish the ancestral worship? Why are there more offerings? Do we need to worship again, or is there something else?" 

"In the evening, we'll perform 'Worship at the Gate' and purify 'Good Brothers,'" explained their mother.

"I know, July is Ghost Month, and the Gates of Hell are wide open. All ghosts will come out, so we need to prepare offerings for purification," Dawn eagerly contributed. 

"The Gates of the Underworld swing wide open, and all the ghosts come out! It's really spooky!" said Daybreak fearfully. 

"Don't worry, it's a traditional custom. The main purpose is to show respect to all the departed souls. There's nothing to be afraid of," reassured dad, sensing Daybreak’s fear and quickly explaining. 

"That's right! The seventh month is also known as the 'Filial Piety Month' and the 'Auspicious Month.' It's a time for everyone to learn about filial piety and gratitude!" Grandma gently patted Daybreak’s head, hoping she wouldn't feel nervous or scared. 

The Chinese Festival — Ghost Festival

"Besides ancestor worship and honoring 'Good Brothers,' are there any other customs on Ghost Festival?" inquired Dawn and Daybreak. Grandpa responded, "Hmm, that's a good question. Ghost Festival has several customs, with notable ones being 'Floating Water Lanterns' and 'Ghost Grappling'." 

"Floating Water Lanterns aim to notify water-bound wandering spirits to partake in purification and enjoy the offerings, helping them alleviate sins," Grandpa explained.

"So, both the deceased on land and water receive offerings and are pardoned?" Daybreak asked without as much fear. 

"Exactly, you got it!" affirmed Grandma. 

As the time for the Purification approached, Dawn and Daybreak began to help set up offerings, preparing for the Purification with enthusiasm. However, they were also intrigued by the tradition of "Ghost Grappling", so during their free time, they went online to gather information. Surprisingly, there was quite a bit of information available! They also wanted to share the story of the Ghost Festival with their family. 

"It turns out that 'Ghost Grappling' means competing with ghosts for offerings, like a kind of 'collective ghost-scaring plan.' It is said that when ghosts see a group of people scarier than themselves, they get scared and flee, not daring to linger in the human world. Additionally, whoever snatches the offerings first is believed to have improved luck," they explained to their family. 

The Chinese Festival — Ghost Festival

Grandpa and Grandma were amazed at how much these two little girls knew. "This event usually takes place after the afternoon Purification activities and continues late into the night. In the past, 'Ghost Grappling' involved piling up offerings on a high platform, and believers would compete to grab them. As soon as the gong sounded, people would rush up, crazily grabbing the offerings and having a great time!" Dawn explained excitedly. 

Daybreak added, "But such 'Ghost Grappling' activities used to be dangerous, with accidents and even casualties occurring due to the crowded chaos. Nowadays, the 'Ghost Grappling' have become much milder. There are usually four pillars supporting the 'Ghost Grappling Platform,' each about a foot thick and towering twelve yards high. During the competition, instead of grabbing offerings, people compete to snatch flags with the words 'Celebrating the Hungry Ghost Month, Illuminating the Shadows.' Those who grab the flag believe they will be safe and healthy, with continuous good luck." 

Dad and Mom, impressed, gave them a thumbs up and said, "You two are really amazing! You explained it so well!" Dawn and Daybreak, hearing the praise from their family, felt delighted. They glanced at each other and burst into happy laughter! 

Children, after reading the story of Ghost Festival, do you have a new understanding of the seventh lunar month? While the Western world celebrates Halloween as the Ghost Festival, ours is Zhongyuan Festival. The significance lies not only in purifying wandering spirits but also in showing respect and filial piety to ancestors, as well as seeking blessings for oneself and family.  

Written by Linlin
Sponsored by Mei-Hua Hall