Hong Kong has assumed a different cast. The seventh month of the lunar calendar is upon us: the gates of the underworld are open, and ancestors and restless spirits – desiring respect, or appeasement – roam the Earth. Food offerings are assembled on street corners. The night is lit by roadside candles and fires in braziers. The air is smoky, not with tear gas, but with the burning of joss paper money and effigies, and the sweet scent of incense wafts on balmy breezes. So closely associated with Chinese cultural practices are joss paper and joss sticks that it may come as a surprise that the word “joss” is not of Chinese origin. It ultimately comes from the Portuguese deos “God”, which in turn derives from the Latin deus . The impact that the Portuguese had, as the first Europeans establishing trading posts in the East Indies in the 16th century, is seen in the Javanese word for a Chinese idol or image (there having been significant Chinese settlements in Java from the 15th century) – dejos . This word then travelled from Bantam (an important Javanese trading port) or Batavia (present-day Jakarta), via regional trading networks, to Chinese seaports in the Pearl River Delta. There, the Javanese dejos entered Chinese Pidgin English (CPE), clipped to joss, for a Chinese figure of a deity. Another view suggests the CPE “joss” came directly from the Portuguese, due to earlier prominence of Portuguese in the area. An early 18th century English account of the East Indies describes how, “Their Josses or Demi-gods are, some of human Shape, some of monstrous Figures”. Joss also came to be used colloquially to mean “luck”: a 1913 document notes how something “comprises a good ‘joss’ for the voyage”. Compounds developed, some falling out of use by the mid-20th century. A jos- or joss-house was a Chinese temple – beyond East Asia, these were also found in Chinatowns of frontier America, and in Australian goldfield towns with significant Chinese populations . Joss-pidgin (where pidgin in CPE comes from “business”) was religion or a religious ceremony. And a joss-(pidgin-)man was the priest of a Chinese religion – a missionary was thus a European joss-man. The compounds “joss paper” and “joss stick”, appearing in the first half of the 19th century, continue to have much currency today. And a joss paper construction with great currency this year, joining iPhones and other luxuries, comprises a surgical face mask – a precious offering in the veneration of one’s ancestors during a pandemic.