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Festival of Hungry Ghosts

Festival of Hungry Ghosts
August 11, 2000

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Rudy: "If, over the next few weeks, you happen to stumble across burning piles of money, or mysterious plates of food abandoned in the street, do not be alarmed. The stock market has not crashed. There aren't any weird plagues affecting the meat. If you do see any of these things, you've simply, unwittingly run into The Festival of Hungry Ghosts. It's an ancient Chinese custom meant to appease the ghosts now roaming among us. Here to tell us the story is Michelle Kholos, here with this week's Culture Watch. Hi Michelle."

Michelle: "Hello Rudy. You're not scared are you?"

Rudy: "Well, a little. I mean, I expect this stuff, you know, ghouls and goblins, in October. This is kind of catching me off guard."

Michelle: "Well, have no fear. It is a little early for us Westerners, but in China, it's the seventh lunar month that bewitches. According to legend, that's when the gates of the underworld are thrown open and the spirits of the recently departed are free to roam the land."

Rudy: "What are they looking for?"

Michelle: "You know, the usual: food, clothing, shelter... money. I guess they're pretty well taken care of in the afterlife, but when they come back to the more corporeal realm, some basics things need to be taken care of."

Rudy: "Hence the burning bills and abandoned leftovers."

Michelle: "Right, and in places like Hong Kong, where Hungry Ghosts are quite numerous, people will make paper clothes and small, paper houses and sacrifice them for the wandering spirits. Walk around the city, or your own local Chinatown on the 15th day of the lunar month, and you'll also see street operas, puppet shows and small concerts being performed, all for the benefit of our invisible friends."

Rudy: "Sounds like something you and I might benefit from as well."

Michelle: "Very true."

Rudy: "So when does this all happen?"

Michelle: "Well the big festivals are coming up soon. August 14th is the official day but it continues through the end of the lunar month. That's August 28th."

Rudy: "Let's hope those ghosts get well-fed."

Michelle: "Let's hope they do. And that's this week's Culture Watch"


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