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China, Teng Chieh: Ghost Festival

           Halloween is a major holiday in America, with nearly 65 percent of Americans decorating their homes for Halloween. In other places in the world, Halloween is just as prevalent. In China, people celebrate the Ghost Festival: Teng Chieh. The Ghost Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month.

           Buddhists from China claim that the Ghost Festival originated from scriptures of Buddhism, but many of the ceremonies’ traditions originate from Chinese folk religion and other local folk traditions. The Ghost Festival is said to occur on the day when ghosts of hell roam the earth seeking food and entertainment. The ghosts are believed to be the ancestors of those who forgot to pay tribute to them after they died, or those who were never given a proper ritual send-off. They have long, thin necks because they haven’t been fed by their family. Family members offer prayers, food and drinks and burn hell bank notes, paper houses, cars, and televisions to please the ghost. Lotus-shaped lanterns are lit and set afloat on rivers to sea to guide the lost spirits of the forgotten ancestors back to hell. Additionally, during the evening, incense is burnt in front of  doors, and some shops close to open the street to ghosts. In the middle of streets, there are altars of incense with fresh fruit displayed on it. Monks and priests hold ceremonies to relieve the pain of the spirits released from hell, as it is believed that ghosts are released when night comes. They also throw rice in the air to distribute it to ghosts.

           During the festival, there are numerous taboos that are believed to bring bad luck or attract a spirit. For instance, people aren’t allowed to pick up money nor wear red because it is believed to attract ghosts. People aren’t allowed to step on or kick the offerings. If that were to happen, people must apologize out loud immediately because it disrespects ghosts. Additionally, people cannot wear red, take selfies, take a walk at night, nor be near walls. All these actions are believed to attract ghosts and bring bad luck.

           Although the Ghost Festival is not celebrated in America like Halloween, it is an important tradition in China. It is the passing of lost spirits and ancestors and represents the connections between the living and the dead, where spirits visit our world.

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