The Hungry Ghost Festival falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. You can find the Western calendar date here.
According to traditional Chinese belief, the seventh month in the lunar calendar is when restless spirits roam the earth. Many Chinese people make efforts to appease these transient ghosts, while ‘feeding’ their own ancestors — particularly on the 15th day, which is the Yu Lan or Hungry Ghost Festival.
While the festival’s origins are not unlike those of Halloween in Europe, it is also intrinsically linked to the Chinese practice of ancestor worship. For the visitor, it’s a perfect opportunity to see some of the city’s living culture in action, with many people tending roadside fires and burning faux money and other offerings for ghosts and ancestors to use in the afterlife. Food is also left out to sate the appetite of the hungry ghosts.
In this year’s edition of the Yulan Festival, an exhibition showcasing customs and traditions will be staged in Victoria Park. There will also be Chinese opera performances around town, usually held on temporary bamboo stages, to praise the charitable and pious deeds of the deities.
The Yu Lan Ghost Festival of the Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community
Around 1.2 million people originating from Chiu Chow (Chaozhou) in China’s Guangdong province live in Hong Kong. During the Hungry Ghost Festival, they organise their own Yu Lan Ghost Festival, which runs for the entire seventh lunar month. The festival has been held for over 100 years and is officially listed as part of China’s intangible cultural heritage.
In neighbourhoods across Hong Kong, during this month you’ll see Chiu Chow people occupying parks, piazzas, pitches and other sufficiently spacious places to offer sacrifices to their ancestors and the wandering ghosts, burning incense and joss paper, distributing free rice, and performing live Chinese operas and Chiu Chow-style dramas for ghosts in need of a bit of entertaining.