Countries in the East do not have Halloween, but they do celebrate something similar. Just as the Western festival focuses on ghosts and ghouls, the Eastern celebration is about the departed spirits of the underworld, also known as The Feast of the Hungry Ghosts. It is celebrated in July in China, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries.
The Chinese believe that during this two-week period, the gates of the underworld open and hungry ghosts are free to wander the Earth seeking food and maybe even revenge if they were wronged. These ghosts are referred to as “hungry” because they had once been people who died from unnatural causes or had not been given a proper burial by their family members.
The story goes that these souls are angered by their abandonment and seek to punish the living. Wandering spirits are unleashed from the gates of hell and return to earth to search for their loved ones and maybe even to seek revenge if they had been wronged. That could keep you up at night!
Unlike children here in the U.S. who go out in costume ‘hungry’ for treats, children in the East, are advised to return home early and not to wander around alone at night because they might be possessed by the wandering, unhappy ghosts.
In reaction to these roaming hungry ghosts, the Chinese celebrate The Feasts of the Hungry Ghosts to remember their dead family members and pay tribute to them. This is an attempt to make the angry spirits feel welcome and to subdue their antagonistic feelings. The living people also offer food to appease the spirits and ward off bad luck; they offer prayers and burn joss sticks. At night in Singapore, it is a common sight to see entertaining ‘wayang’ shows and concerts performed on outdoor stages in some neighborhoods, hoping to please the wandering ghosts.