Halloween is a holiday primarily celebrated in the West. It has its origin in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, which is pronounced “sah-win”. But while Halloween is a much bigger celebration in Western cultures, it is also celebrated in Eastern cultures. In China, Halloween is known as the Ghost Festival or the Hungry Ghost Festival. The Ghost Festival is a celebration of the departed souls, and it is celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month (July). The souls of the dead are called hungry ghosts because they are searching the planet for recognition, care, and affection.
Chinese Halloween lasts several days, beginning on July 1 and ending on July 14. The Chinese believe that during this two-week period, the gates of the underworld are open, and the spirits are looking for a way to re-enter the human world.
The festival, also called Teng Chieh, is a time of honoring and remembering loved ones who have passed on. Food and water are usually placed in front of photographs of the departed family members, while lanterns are lit to light the paths of the spirits as they travel the earth on Halloween night. This custom has two purposes. The first, as mentioned, is to remember the dead. The second purpose is to free the spirits of their earthly bonds so they may ascend to heaven. These spirits do not belong to those who were properly buried or cared for, but instead they belong to those who died unnatural deaths, may have not been given a proper burial so that their relatives would have closure or those who were abandoned by their families.
The Chinese days of the dead are also celebrated at other times throughout the year, but the month of July is particularly important. July is known as the Ghost Month or Gui Yue. During this month, ghosts of the deceased are thought to be searching the country for entertainment.
Because of these traveling ghosts, most citizens refrain from partaking in anything they consider “dangerous,” such as swimming or being outside alone at night. As mentioned, there are other times of year when the dead are celebrated including the Qing Ming Festival, which takes place in early April, the Double Nine Festival which takes place in autumn and the Chinese Spring Festival. These days are an integral part of the religion known as Daoism. These celebrations are hundreds of years old, and they are days where people either protect themselves from the pranks of the deceased or they honor their dead.
Halloween, as it is celebrated here in the West, has entered Eastern culture though, via foreign teachers and Western emigrants. In cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Halloween is more commonly acknowledged and celebrated due to the influx of foreigners. Hong Kong is another area where traditional Halloween decorations may be found around October 31st, and this is because of places like Disneyland.
While Halloween is celebrated differently and at different times of year, it is still a tradition that is celebrated worldwide. Happy Halloween!!!