How to Celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival

How to Celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival

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The Hungry Ghost Festival, also known as the Zhongyuan Festival, marks the time of year when tables are turned and the deceased are believed to visit the living. During the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival, the gates of the afterlife are thrown open and ghosts are free to roam the earth in search of food, entertainment and mischief.

Hungry Ghost Festival

Mark Your Calendars
Hungry Ghost Festival 2017 is September 5, 2017. It takes place every year on the evening of the 15th day of Ghost Month, the 7th month on the lunar calendar.

Here is a collection of easy family activities, crafts and customs with step-by-step directions to help your family make nice with any ghosts who may come calling at your doorstep.

red-lanternThe Basics

Though the Hungry Ghost Festival gets some acclaim as the “Chinese Halloween,” the holiday actually offers a great opportunity to teach kids about caring for the destitute and less fortunate. During the duration of Ghost Month, hungry spirits roam the earth in search of mischief and worldly pleasure. To ease their suffering, the living observe superstitions and make offerings of food, money and entertainment all month long, culminating with an outdoor ghost-feeding ceremony on the night of the Hungry Ghost Festival.

History & Folklore

History & Folklore

The Hungry Ghost Festival is a time when restless ghosts rise, when makeshift roadside altars glow with burning joss paper and when the living do everything they can to appease the wandering spirits. It’s one of the two big annual festivals designated for the dead — the other is the Qingming Festival in the spring. Read More »

The Origins of Ghost Month Traditions

The Origins of Ghost Month Traditions

People take actions on the night of the Hungry Ghost Festival, and during the entire Ghost Month, to pacify the spirits looking to cause mischief around them. It’s assumed that ghosts won’t curse those who make offerings of food, money and material goods in their honor. Read More »


Ghosts and goblins, spooky stories and incense make the Hungry Ghost Festival a lot of fun to share with your kids. It’s a month-long opportunity to follow old superstitions, tell ghost stories and reinforce the importance of family, along with the need to look after the destitute. Ghost Month culminates with a ghost-feeding ceremony on the night of the Hungry Ghost Festival that’s filled with fire, smoke and ritual offerings.

How to Plan a Ghost-Feeding Ceremony

How to Plan a Ghost-Feeding Ceremony

A ghost-feeding ceremony is all about providing for the wandering souls searching the earth for food, entertainment and mischief. Planning a ghost-feeding ceremony is a bit like putting together a dinner party for a set of invisible guests under a full moon. Read More »


You can use craft projects during the Hungry Ghost Festival to introduce the meaning of ritual paper offerings, in the form of joss paper ingots and floating lanterns. Burning ceremonial joss paper is meant to calm wandering spirits, while floating lanterns light a path home at the end of the holiday.

How to Fold Joss Paper Ingots

How to Fold Joss Paper Ingots

Folding joss paper ingots around the kitchen table can help you explain the importance of sending offerings of money, food and other supplies to passing ghosts. Use our guide to fold joss paper into the gold ingots that were used as ancient Chinese currency. Read More »

How to Make a Floating Lotus Flower Paper Lantern

How to Make a Floating Lotus Flower Paper Lantern

The Hungry Ghost Festival and Ghost Month end by sending the spirits home, guided by the candlelight of a floating lantern. Make this traditional floating lantern that’s shaped like a lotus flower to symbolize purity and redemption. Read More »

red-lanternBuying Guides

Prior to the Hungry Ghost Festival, it’s a good idea to pick up joss paper, incense sticks and the foods for your ceremonial offering, but that’s all you’ll really need. You’ll also want to select a few children’s books to help introduce young readers to the holiday.

Best Children's Books About the Hungry Ghost Festival

Best Children’s Books About the Hungry Ghost Festival

The Hungry Ghost Festival is the perfect opportunity to introduce children to classic Chinese ghost stories, where otherworldly ghouls, ghosts and spirits abound. Here’s a collection of spooky tales that are distinctly Chinese. Read More »

How to Buy Joss Paper

How to Buy Joss Paper

The Chinese burn joss paper to send ancestors money and material goods in the afterlife. Use our guide to learn how to use joss paper during the Hungry Ghost Festival, along with how to shop for the three most common types available. Read More »

I hope you have a great time celebrating the Hungry Ghost Festival this year with these easy activities and crafts. Please comment below if there are additional resources you would like to see added to the site!

HT: Photo by Reuters.

8 Responses

  1. Thank you for the information, my Chinese gf and her family are impressed that I take the time to learn about their customs and traditions. Hopefully this information will help put more feathers in my cap. Always learning

    • So happy to hear that, John! Welcome to the site and hope you’ll continue your journey! Winning over the parents is super important, it’s all about making the effort. ~Wes

  2. Great information on this festival. I will share on my Facebook page.

  3. Thanks for the information. I have a student from Hong Kong and I am trying to learn about his culture. He is about to celebrate his first Halloween in America. I was looking for how the holidays are similar.

    • That’s really wonderful, Carolyn. I’m sure he appreciates the effort. I had hoped to write a post this year about Chinese American Halloween costume ideas, but couldn’t quite make it. Next year! ~Wes

  4. Ronujie Raliugad

    A big graceful thanks to you for all these kind information that you have provided on your page;
    It helps me a lot in many ways.
    It teaches me how to have reunion with my ancestors again after so long!!,
    Keep up your good work.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Ronujie! I’m so glad that you find the site so helpful. ~Wes

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