Hungry Ghost Festival is the month when the streets become unusually quiet and spooky at night, even the slightest breeze would send chills down our spine. That’s because the Chinese believe that spirits are unleashed during this time as the Gates of Hell open.
Since the Hungry Ghost Festival this year commences on August 22, we’ve compiled 13 taboos that we’ve all heard too often leading up to this ghastly month. Time for a recap!
1. Don’t hang clothes at night
Explanation 1: Clothes that are hung resemble the shape of a human body, therefore restless spirits may be attracted to cling on to it.
Explanation 2: They’ve been tortured by the extreme cold in their world, hence they’d look for clothes when roaming around our world.
2. Stay away from any swimming pool, lake, stream, beach or waterfall, especially at night
Not sure about bathtubs tho.
Explanation: It’s believed that vengeful water spirits who have drowned are actively looking for a ‘replacement soul’ to take their place, and anyone who plays nearby the water become an easy target.
3. Never turn your head when your shoulder is tapped or your name is called from BEHIND
Explanation: According to superstitious belief, a human has two protective flames, one on each shoulder. If ghosts pat your shoulder and you turn your head, the flame will be ‘extinguished’, thus making you vulnerable to them.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to ignore everyone at night. Instead of turning your head, you should turn your whole body when being called.
4. Don’t whistle or make unnecessary noise at night
Explanation: Whistling attracts wandering spirits, as they would think you’re calling them. Celebrating birthdays at night is also not encouraged as the spirits may want to participate. The more the merrier, right?
5. Don’t take pictures or videos at night
Explanation: Night-time is said to be the most active period for them, which is why you might accidentally get them in the shot. Don’t want your selfie to become a wefie, do you?
6. Don’t wait at bus stops alone at night or take the last bus
Explanation: There’s a very good chance that they might get on the bus and follow you home. You’re not looking for a bus buddy, are you?
7. Avoid visiting hospitals or undergoing surgery
Explanation: Hospitals are where birth, sickness, and death occur, so it’s said to be filled with yin (negative) energy. The older generation believe that spirits may follow you home from the hospital when you’re at your weakest, which is when you’re sick.
8. Don’t play games like ouija board or ‘碟仙’
Explanation: Since this game focuses on communicating with spirits from the other world, it’s very likely that you’ll succeed especially during this month. What if you attract the wrong one, or it doesn’t want to leave after that?
9. Avoid having dark or black manicure
Explanation: Spirits may think you’re one of them and would like to ‘befriend’ you.
10. Don’t talk to yourself
Explanation: Your friends or colleagues may know your pattern, but not them! Your eccentric behaviour may be deemed as an invitation to make ‘friends’. Since wandering spirits yearn for interaction, they might be overly attached to you!
11. Don’t open an umbrella inside your house
Explanation: The Chinese believe that ghosts love to seek shelter under open umbrellas, and opening one at home is like welcoming them to your house.
12. Avoid hanging wind chimes by your bed or window
Explanation: The noise from wind chimes could attract wandering spirits to ‘visit’ you. Plus, humans are said to be in the most vulnerable state when they’re sleeping. Not sure about dreamcatchers tho.
13. Never sit in the first row of street opera performances (ge-thai)
Explanation: The first row is exclusively reserved for the spirits and you would offend them if you take their VIP seats. After all, the whole show is put up to entertain and please them; we’re just there mainly for the street food.
These are the age-old superstitious beliefs that we’ve been fed by our parents ever since we can remember. Whether you believe them or not, that’s totally up to you, but don’t say we didn’t warn you yea! Better safe than sorry, right?
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