#82 Haunting Chinese Ghost Festival 神秘的中元节

Podcast Transcript

大家好!欢迎回来MaoMi Chinese!






Hello everyone! Welcome back to MaoMi Chinese!

I believe you already know many Chinese festivals. Today, We are going to talk about a festival that fewer people know about. This festival is called “Zhongyuan Festival”, also known as “Ghost Festival”. The Zhngyuan Festival falls on the 15th of July in the lunar calendar every year, and this year’s Zhongyuan Festival falls on the 12th day of the Gregorian calendar.

Because Zhongyuan Festival is also called “Ghost Festival”, and as its name suggests, this is a festival related to “ghosts”. We talked about Qingming Festival before. People who have listened to this podcast may know that the Chinese believe that when our family members and ancestors pass away, they will go to another world. Therefore, we would like to commemorate the deceased family members and ancestors. In fact, the Zhongyuan Festival is also about commemorating ancestors. In the traditional Chinese concept, after most people die, their ghosts will go to the “underworld”. Every year on the seventh lunar month, the gates of the underworld will open. These ghosts will return to the world to visit their relatives and friends, and they will not go back until the end of July when the gate of hell closes. Sounds a bit like All Souls’ Day in Mexico, right? Yes, it is also a festival to honor the dead. In other words, the Chinese believe that death is not the end, but the beginning of another journey.

In such a mysterious festival, what are the taboos? Taboo means something that people can’t do. First of all, throughout July, people think it’s best not to do something too happy. For example, getting married, moving to a new home, etc. If your birthday is in July, then you’d better not celebrate your birthday at midnight, because you may have some unexpected “guests”… Secondly, on the day of the Chinese Zhongyuan Festival, you need to be very careful with your words. It is best not to say the word “ghost”. Otherwise, ghosts may really be attracted and come to you. Thirdly, on the night of Chinese New Year’s Day, you may see people burning ghost paper on the street. Ghost paper, which means paper burned for ghosts. Please don’t step on the ghost paper. Because these ghost papers are burned for ghosts, and if you step on the ghost papers, the ghosts are likely to get angry.

Having said so many taboos about the Zhongyuan Festival, let’s also talk about the customs, which means what people can and should do during this festival. As we said earlier, Zhongyuan Festival is also a festival to commemorate ancestors, so we can go to worship ancestors and deceased relatives on this day. People will also burn ghost paper beside the street, or place some food on the street. These are for ghosts. It is believed that some ghosts are very lonely, so people burn ghost paper for them as their clothes and also give them some food. Where there is a river, people also make some river lanterns, then light the candles in the lanterns, put the lanterns into the river, and let the lanterns float away along the water. The river lanterns are set to lead the ghosts back to where they should go.

Are there any similar festivals in your country? If so, what are your taboos and customs? Please leave us a comment!

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