The popular Hungry Ghost Festival falls on the 7th lunar month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The Chinese Puppet Show and Chinese Opera are merged for audiences at Temples. People clean their houses, buy food, and decorate the streets. The performances are particularly rampant in villages and cities that are Chinese dominated; hence, some of the best places to visit in Malaysia during the festival are: Malacca, Perak, and Penang.
Chinese communities in Malaysia believe that on the 7th lunar month the gates of Hell open, freeing the spirits of the dead to wander around the world. The living must make food offerings, donations and burn prayer money for the dead souls to pacify them. These ghosts inspire fear as well as pity. The spirits who roam on earth during this day are not allowed in Heaven for some reason. They’re looking for human beings willing to take their place in Hell.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated in various Chinese communities from all across Asia. It’s the time of the year when the souls locked in Hell come to the world of the living, so if you don’t know what to do in Malaysia or where to go, you might want to try the Malaysian enclaves; Chinese families are offering delicacies and food in front of their doors to feed the spirits. It is believed that if the souls have something to eat, they will no longer harm the families. Extra snacks and cookies are offered to honor the dead ancestors.
Chinese prepare for the Hungry Ghost Festival with one week in advance, and some of the most common things to do in Malaysia during the celebration is to cook. Groups start rehearsing special puppet shows, musical concerts, dance performances, and operas. These are displayed during every night of the festival and attract lots of people. The streets are usually decorated with massive shrines and flamboyant parades take place in all big cities. People wear scary masks, costumes and disguises to scare the ghosts and make them return to Hell.
To satiate the spirits, the Chinese offer large meals, burn joss sticks, “hell money” and various paper versions of earthly goods like cars, TVs and furniture. They believe that the ancestors can make their businesses profitable from beyond the grave, thus they offer them food and pray for them. People ask their predecessors for protection and blessing.
People not only leave food in front of their houses, but also along the highways and on street corners. This way, they feed more ghosts and prevent them from producing any damages. At the local Taoist temples you will be able to witness outstanding displays of food offerings for the spirits. It is believed that these displays are overseen by the Leader of Hungry Ghosts.
It is believed that the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival is a bad time to do anything. Various important milestones are avoided because people believe it’s bad luck. The Chinese don’t travel or celebrate any important ceremonies. Businessmen steer clear from buying proprieties, riding airplanes, and closing businesses. Tying the knot and moving are bad ideas too. People are convinced that marriages made during this month are vulnerable. Swimming is a terrifying prospect too and kids are told that hungry ghosts will try to pull them under the water and steal their soul. People are performing all their daily activities as normal, but they’re careful not to do anything that might endanger them. These superstitions have existed in the Chinese culture for years and people are convinced they’re truthful. Where to go in Malaysia during such tricky celebration? The answer: everywhere. There will be plenty of street parties and events going on, so it will be impossible for tourists to get bored.
All in all, the Hungry Ghost Festival is indeed impressive. People are convinced that ghosts are wandering on earth during that time and that they’re in danger. This is one of the oldest Chinese traditions and it has not been forgotten in time. In Malaysia, the festival takes place every year and the entire country makes efforts to scare the dead. One of the most common things to do during the Hungry Ghost Festival is to pray for the ancestors and cherish their past.
Every Malaysian festival is sacred in its own way. Ergo, responsible travelers should protect the environment and they must respect the tradition as well. Fostering reverence and esteem for the locals and for their belief is paramount; the places you visit and explore must be kept intact in order to help others enjoy them as well.