Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hungry, Hungry Ghosts

Friday was Yu Lan Jie, the Hungry Ghost Festival. Ghost day is in the middle of Ghost Month and it's when you're supposed to go to your local temple and offer food to the ghosts to keep them happy.

It's a lot less ridiculous than I'm making it sound. It's actually kind of sweet. If you're a believer, you're supposed to believe that the ghosts are suffering. Giving them food and burning things relieves their ghost pain. It's an ancient festival that shows respect for the departed. It's not nearly as commercial and contrived as Qixi or White Day.

As with most Chinese festivals, there is a lot of eating, setting things on fire and lighting paper lanterns. Some places set off firecrackers to keep the ghosts at bay, but Hong Kong has a few laws about fireworks. I'm all for the eating and lanterns, but I can never get into all the things on fire. Burning paper is often a bad idea in such a crowded place. If you want to see fireworks, go to Victoria Harbour any night at 8pm.

There is a long list of things you're not supposed to do during Ghost Month. Most of them are about keeping the ghosts happy. Some of them are basic superstitions – like not wearing red or doing unlucky things. Some of them are kind of absurd. You're not supposed to swim because ghosts who were drowned might try to drown you. But doesn't that mean you should not drive because ghosts who died in car accidents will try to make you crash?

I always break a few rules during Ghost Month. You're not supposed to sing at night because that might attract unwanted ghosts. I work more at night than I do in the daytime. Singing is pretty much required at my job. Since we've been staying at the big house, I've been in that swimming pool every day. I don't care what the ghosts say, if I have a clean swimming pool at my disposal, I'm going swimming.

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