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Hungry Ghost Festival



No swimming or late outing as the Gates of Hell are opened on the Chinese lunar seventh month



Hungry Ghost Festival is the most important festival or celebration of the year beside the Chinese New Year. The Chinese believe that during the seventh month, the Gates of Hell are opened. Ghost are free to wander in search for food.


It is important to understand the reason why there is a festival for the hungry ghost. It is believed that when the Gates of Hell are opened, all ghosts or spirit are given the opportunity for a one month vacation to return to Earth.


So I dutifully return home to Sungai Bakap to help my aunts and uncles in their preparation to pray during the Hungry Ghost Festival.


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Who are hungry ghost?

Hungry Ghost Festivals in Penang

In this hungry ghost festival, it is solely festivals for the wandering spirits or 'hoe heah ti' or good brothers. The spirit that has no home to return.


Of course without a doubt, the ancestors spirit knows their way around. They will return to their descendants homes and hereby the food feast will be laid for their consumption.Hungry Ghost Festival


Well, according to my late father, (my father has lots of tales to tell me), ooking after ones parent or ancestor is our duty.


According to my aunt Ah Nur Kor Kor, feast for ancestors during the hungry ghost month is usually a 'quiet do'.


But it is a very different story for the hungry or wandering spirit or most called ghost. In the case of ghost where no one offers food, they turn hungry.



The hungry ghost feast and festival is usually or collectively prepared by the community business man. It will be held in the market place or association hall.


See how much food were prepared for the Hungry Ghost Feast by Sungai Bakap Kee Kongsi (Clan House) in August this year 2008.



If you are want to see this Chinese Halloween during the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, best place is in most Chinatown wet markets in Malaysian and Singapore towns.


Big huge effigy of Phor Thor Kong or King of Hell sitting majestically at the main table. From morning till late night, food offering were placed for the BIG KING.


For the hungry ghost, they get their share after the King of Hell is fed. Same time, he ensured the hungry ghost won't misbehaved during the time they are on earth.


Long ago Strange tales

Hungry Ghost Festival in Sungai Bakap Penang

I remember when we were young, we were warned not to place anything other then food on the King of Hell's table.


I was told he ate a baby who was accidentally placed by the mother on the table. When the mother returned to fetch the baby, he had turned black or blue.


It was so scary that we would not dared to go near the table. The mum pleaded and cried for the child to be return and apologized for being rude, that is placing the child on the table as her hands were full.


The spirit medium translated as the King of Hell thought that it was a food offering for him.


Beside Food offerings, one could enjoy the Chinese Opera and food stalls for us humans. On the last day of the month, modern day live concert with pretty young girls wearing trendy attire are the highlights for the humans.


Karaoke too can be heard and funny Mandarin or Hokkien pantomime is played to the delights of the older generations.Hungry Ghost Festival


Local beliefs of Hungry Ghost Feast

Chinese Opera during Hungry Ghost Festival Penang

Chinese operas for the King of Hades and live concert to appease the two worlds, the wandering ghosts and earthy beings. The festivals usually conclude with the burning of Hell paper money, hell paper clothes for their use in the underworld.


Two main reason why Chinese performs this rituals. The fear that the revengeful spirit may come back to take revenge. Some even think that the ghosts would seek revenge on those who had wronged them in their lives.


They also felt that, the unseen is a reality and that business prosper because ancestors spirit does their part in helping the descendant to own a successful business.


Hungry Ghost Event in Sungai Bakap Penang

So what the locals do is that, they would first offer food to their ancestors as they hoped ancestors being the first to be offered food won't be hungry ghost.


As ancestor spirit are being taken care by their descendants, they are not called hungry ghost. Most Chinese descendants does take care of their ancestors by inaugurating name tablets in their homes or associations.


See how we care for our Kee ancestors. They also feel that offering food to the ancestors spirit appeases them and wards off bad luck. And because descendants are filial and respectful, blessings will be bestowed upon them.


Just as Halloween is for Americans, the Hungry Ghost festival is for the Chinese. For those who have never heard of this festival, here are the essential spooky facts on this festival.


Some local Penang Hungry Ghost Superstitions

No late night are tolerated during the seventh month. Most mums or grandmother nag for all to be home before midnight.


We were even discouraged to go for picnic or swimming. And during the seventh month, if any death is reported it will be pointed out that, it is due to disobedience. Usually in the hungry ghost month, no one will get married.


Origin of Hungry Ghost Festival

I remembered my father telling us the stories about "Bok Lean Kwee Boo" or Mu Lian saves his mother.


This tale has been told over and over again when I was young. The moral as always is be filial and respectful of one's parents. In this story Bok Lean or Mu Lian goes all out to save his mother.


I smiled as I write this, as I recall how youngster are easily taken in by their elders in those days. Simple things pleases us, life was then simple in the fifties for my parents.


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