10 things to avoid during the Hungry Ghost Festival, from wearing red to staying out late

Clarisse Poon
  • According to Chinese belief, the gates of hell have opened and the dead can enter the world of the living, so it’s best to avoid making them angry
  • Stay away from large bodies of water, don’t make big decisions, and if you see a coin on the street, just leave it!
Clarisse Poon |

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Today is the Hungry Ghost Festival, so make sure that you’re appeasing the spirits! Photo: Shutterstock

The Hungry Ghost Festival, or Yulan Festival, falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, also known as “Ghost month”. This year, the festival lands on Friday, August 12.

During Ghost month, which dates back more than 2,000 years, it is believed that the gates of hell are opened, and spirits are free to roam the living world and visit their families.

Behind the scenes at the Hungry Ghost Festival

Rituals during the festival include burning incense and joss paper offerings for the wandering ghosts. You might be familiar with “hell money” that the living can burn for the dead to use in the afterlife; people also burn paper gifts like iPhones and designer bags for the dearly departed. Local neighbourhoods may also hold nightly Chinese operas, with vacant front row seats for the ghosts.

There are several things you shouldn’t do during the festival to avoid bad luck. From hanging your laundry at night to wearing red, here are 10 things you shouldn’t do.

It’s that time of year again! Photo: Shutterstock

Don’t stay out late

Ghosts are afraid of light and seldom come out during the day. Ghosts and evil spirits are strongest at night, as energy from the moon strengthens them. They tend to prey on unsuspecting victims in the dark and are exceptionally attracted to pregnant women or babies.

In fact, most of these tips revolve around things you shouldn’t do during the night, so maybe it’s best to just head home when the sun goes down.

Don’t wear red or black clothing

Spirits are attracted to these two colours, so they may follow you around.

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Don’t stand against or walk near walls

Spirits are said to favour walking along walls and dark corners, as they give a sinister aura that is perfect for ghostly gatherings – and it’s also easier for them to hide. So avoid walking along the walls on the street unless you want to run into them.

Stay away from bodies of water

It is believed that vengeful water spirits lie in wait for a “substitute” – someone who can take their place in death – underneath the surface of the sea and may try to lure you into the water so they can be reincarnated.

She looks cute, but don’t be fooled! Photo: Shutterstock

Don’t hang your clothes outside at night

The human shape of clothes that hang on the balcony or out the window can attract ghosts. It’s not because they’re particularly fashion-conscious, but because they can sneak inside your home when you gather your laundry.

Don’t take the last bus or train

Invisible “customers” may be riding the last shifts of public transport, so avoid taking them to prevent spirits from pouncing on you.

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Don’t tap someone on the shoulder or head

Chinese belief states that there are three invisible “flames” on the human body – one on each shoulder and one on top of the head – contributing to our “brightness”, which helps ward off evil spirits and misfortune. Tapping a person on the shoulder or head can put out the flame, causing an imbalance of yin and yang energy and attracting spirits.

Avoid making big life decisions

Important events such as weddings or moving into a new house are not suggested during the festival. It is believed that holding a life-changing event during Ghost month will not come to a good end.

In addition, moving things into a previously unoccupied space could accidentally “invite” wandering spirits into your new home, and a wedding held during this time could end up with a few unwanted visitors.

Make sure to leave out offerings, or you’ll have an angry spirit on your hands. Photo: Shutterstock

Don’t whistle, sing, or talk to yourself at night

These joyful noises will no doubt attract the attention of roaming ghosts who take them as an invitation to interact with you or even follow you home. So it’s best to keep quiet at night.

Don’t pick up coins on the street

These coins could belong to an evil spirit or even be used to possess the person who touches them. In fact, avoid picking up anything you see on the street, and ignore strange noises and smells. Pop in your headphones so you don’t hear unfamiliar voices calling out your name; these are spirits attempting to reveal themselves to you.

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