Chinese Halloween

The time is upon us. When pumpkins grow faces, kids visit strange places it’s scary because it’s not a dream. Soon you will encounter Halloween… halloween (The red banner above 万圣 (wàn shèng jié kuài lè) means ‘Happy Halloween’).

你好呀!你知道最近的节日是什么?在欧洲,美国,等等 人们庆祝Halloween, 但是中国人庆祝什么? Allow me to translate; ‘Hiya! Do you know what the most recent festival is? In Europe, America, etc people celebrate Halloween, but what do Chinese people celebrate?’. Today I’m here to answer that question. The other day I found out that Chinese people have their equivalent of Halloween. I was surprised because it seemed like such a western tradition, but of course the Chinese festival is a lot different. In addition to that, the Chinese festival is not something that is joyfully celebrated by the Chinese people, rather it is an annual occasion they believe takes place and so they make arrangements to follow it.

I’m going to put a disclaimer that I don’t celebrate either of these festivals myself, but I am aware of the customs due to living in England, and researching the Chinese celebrations.

Henceforth I will try to limit the use of ‘Halloween’ (no promises can be made) because the Chinese festival has it’s own name, which is: 鬼节 (guǐ jié). 鬼节means ‘Ghost festival’, but is also known as ‘The Hungry Ghost festival’. It is a traditional Taoist and Buddhist festival that is still earnestly practised to this day. It is believed that on the 15th night of the seventh month (following the lunar calendar) the gates of heaven and hell open to allow ghosts and spirits to enter the realm of the human world. Some people believe that their deceased ancestors will visit them during this time so they make offerings to welcome the spirits. For example, special paper money will be presented to the spirits and then burnt so that they can use it when they return to their realm. I once saw people preparing extravagant gifts for the dead spirits on a TV documentary, which included paper computers and Ferrari cars. These items were available to be bought by the general public, and then respectively offered to their ‘ghost visitors’. However the typical offerings include incense, paper money and food (usually rice, rice wine and chicken).

Unlike the western celebrations, Chinese people ‘celebrating’ 鬼节 will try to keep their children inside the house so that they do not come into contact with the spirits that come out at night. As well as that people may take extra precautions not to upset the spirits. For example you should not take photos during the festival incase it captures a spirit that will haunt you later. Here are some interesting photos I found on the BBC website; (no one was haunted in the making).

鬼节 happens in mid July so it’s not something that is concerning Chinese people at this moment, however Halloween is fast approaching. If you celebrate Halloween then be cautious of where you go and the people you interact with because it can be a dangerous time. On a lighter note, what did you think of my spontaneous rhyme at the start?

If you plan to celebrate Halloween or鬼节 then good luck 世界!

从欣妍 – From Xinyan


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