In the month of August (that’s the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar) the Chinese believe, that the gates of hell will open.
The dead souls (the Hungry Ghosts) will be released and they will roam the streets of the living .
Children and young toddlers are kept from going out of the house, because it is beleived the “Hungry Ghosts” could lure them to the kingdom of the dead.
Getting married or moving to another house during this period is normally considered as bad luck and is not practiced. Also it is very bad luck if one dies during this month, as though dieing is not bad enough!
Going to the beach is not allowed, because of the many tragedies that supposedly have taken place in the sea during this month, and it is said the evil ghosts may be eager to take more lives.
The festival of the Hungry Ghosts is celebrated in a large scale by the Chinese in Penang. There are many makeshift altars and stages put up along various roads in Georgetown.
During this period, which is especially prominent during the 14th and 15th day of the Chinese seventh month, devotees will prepare food to give to the dead souls.
The Chinese will ‘invite’ their dead relatives for a meal and burn joss sticks, fake money in surprisingly large denominations, daily essentials of paper clothes, shoes, TV’s, radios, and even cars and other luxuries. Such practice is done to ensure that their present generation and generations to come would be blessed, and free from any imminent harm.
All ghosts must be fed and entertained.
Another aspect of this celebration among the Chinese community everywhere, would be the stage operas and other musical performances, said to provide entertainment for these dead souls.
The 30th day of the seventh moon is the last day of the festival .At midnight, the ghosts return to Hades and the gates are shut after them. Paper deities, money, and other goodies are burnt in a giant bonfire as a final gift.
There are many places where the food, that they offered, is then given to the poor.
The Chinese will resume their daily activities after this period. With a sense of relief and ease, faced with the confidence that they have fulfilled their duties towards their dead ancestors.