World Culture: Halloween, Day of the Dead, the Hungry Ghost Festival and the Ghost Month

Dia de Muertos, fall seasonal bakery items in Ecuador. photo by Miss Panda Chinese

Bread with various fillings is called “guaguas de pan.”  Dia de Muertos, fall seasonal bakery items in Ecuador. Photo credit: Miss Panda Chinese

Halloween (United States): October 31 萬聖節

Pumpkins!  Pumpkins!  They are in the supermarket, in the farmers’ market, and in front of the door steps of the neighbors.  With all the young kids trying out their customs in the stores and all the Halloween decoration filled in the neighborhood we know it is time to buy bags of candies for the excitement of Halloween!  Halloween started as the festival of Samhain and it was part of the ancient Celtic religion in Britain and some parts of Europe.  Long ago, people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.  Later, the eve before All Saints’ Day, November 1 became All Hallows’ Eve and later known as Halloween.  Halloween took off with Irish immigrants in America.  Pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating gained popularity during 20th century.  Now, Halloween is a community- and kids-friendly day.  Halloween is 萬聖節|万圣节Wàn shèng jié.

Day of the Dead/Dia de Los Muertos (Mexico and Hispanic culture): November 1 – November 2.

Dia de Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday and is celebrated in Mexico and many Hispanic communities.   This is the time to honor their deceased loved ones.  You will see beautiful home alters decorated with flowers such as marigolds, candles, fruit, food, and more.  Family and friends have reunion at this time of the year to pray for family members who have passed and help support their spiritual journey.  It is similar to Qíng Míng Jíe in Chinese culture.

miss-panda-chinese-dia-de-muertos-in-qutio-ecuador

Bakery goods for Dia de Los Muertos in Quite, Ecuador. Photo by Miss Panda Chinese.

Lunar July Ghost Month (Chinese): 7th Lunar Month 農曆七月

Chinese people have during the 7th month on the lunar calendar is called 農曆七月 (in traditional Chinese) |农历七月 (in simplified Chinese) and it reads as “Nóng lì qī yuè” and it literally means “lunar July.” The whole month of July on the lunar calendar is known as 鬼月 “Guǐ yuè” and it means “ghost month.” Ghost month is known in China and Taiwan and especially for Taoism followers and Buddhism followers.

News Report: First day of 7th Lunar Month – Opening of “Ghost Gate” ceremony at Chéng Huáng Temple. Audio in Chinese.

Hungry Ghost Festival (Chinese): 15th day of the 7th Lunar Month

The 15th day of the lunar July month is 中元節-“zhōng yuán jié” also is called 盂蘭()-“yú lán (pén) jié”, and this is “Hungry Ghost Festival” in Hong Kong. This day origins from the story of one of Buddha’s disciples, Maudgalyayana and his mother. It is a story connecting to filial piety. There are many taboos and tradition practices for this day and the whole 7th months of July on the Lunar calendar.  In recent years, I have seen the skull (calaca) print from the Day of the Dead on limited advertisement in Taiwan.  Hungry Ghost Festival is well-known in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong tourism bureau does publicity for this festival annually.

News feature: Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong. Audio in English and Cantonese.

Hong Kong’s Hungry Ghosts Festival (BBC) from Hélène Franchineau on Vimeo.

Qī Míng Jié (Chinese): April 5

“Qīng Mīng Jié” – 清明節 is observed and is a public holiday in China, Taiwan, and Chinese communites.  The most important thing for this day is tomb-sweeping 掃墓.  It is the day to commemorate and honor the family ancestors and passing family members. People visit the tombs, clean up, and burn paper offerings.  It is also a tradition to bring food, fruit, and flowers to the tomb that families are visiting for the passing family members to “enjoy”.  It is on April 5 every year.  This is similar to Dia of Los Muertos in Mexico and Hispanic culture.

Video: Story and history of Qíng Míng Jié in Chinese.


 Extended Learning Resource Links:

Day of the Dead Around the World by Frances at Multicultural Kid Blogs

Day of the Dead – Brief History of Dia de Muertos by MommyMaestra

Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong

Hungry Ghost Festival with key phrases in Chinese and English TheChairmansBao

Video: Lunar July Ghost Month origin. Audio options:  English or Chinese.

Video: Qíng Míng Festival in China. Audio in English.

Qíng Míng Jíe by ETSpeaksFromHome

Memory Day Lantern Floating Ceremony in Hawaii.

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2 Comments
  1. Thank you for this lovely post. In India we have ‘sharad’ these are days when we remember are dead ones and feed food to priests and crows!! We pray for the peace of their soul

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