There are Halloween, Día de muertos… but here in Taiwan? We have a whole month dedicated to the ghosts and spirits.
Right now we’re in the month of ghost, which is the July of Chinese lunar calendar. It is said that on June 30th (lunar calendar) is the day that the door of the underworld opens, so this month is the only time that the spirits can return to the mortal world.
Here I list down some things about what we do during this month of ghosts:
- Zhong Yuan Festival (中元節)
It’s the 15th of July (also lunar calendar), on this day we prepare fruits, cookies, meat, soda as offering for the spirits, and burn incense and a special kind of paper that represents money, hoping the spirits and our ancestors would be able to rest in peace if they are treated with good food and enough money so they wouldn’t be poor in the underworld. The ceremony is held outside, so the spirits wouldn’t enter the households. We do keep the food and drinks afterwards, it’s okay to eat them after the offering ceremony!
In Taiwan, we don’t like to say “ghosts” or “the dead”, we find it to be a bit disrespectful and also ominous, so we call the spirits “buddies”. “Buddies” are specially referring to the wandering ghosts which have no descendants to worship them.
Since the ghosts return to the mortal world, there are some things to do (or to be more precise, things NOT to do) to keep the boundary between the living and the dead. The purpose of offering food, drinks, and paper money during Zhong Yuan Festival is to make the spirits happy, but that’s not all, we avoid doing things that may draw the attention of the wandering spirits. For example, we are taught not to whistle at night; or not to hang the clothes outside once the sky gets dark; or not to go into deep water, legend has it that the water ghosts will drag you into the water and drown you. And of course, it’s not the best month to get married.
- Horror movie craze
Despite the fact that there are many taboos, I guess people still like to do something daring, as if the rules are meant to be broken. During the month of ghosts, you will notice that the companies here seize the chance to sale horror films, they arrange horror movies to be in theatres during this period of time, and in fact, people seem to quite enjoy this!
I have heard people commented that Asians are kind of superstitious, it’s true but also not completely true. I feel like the things we do are based on our history, our past, and slowly they become a part of our culture and our life. For foreigners, these things really do look like superstitions or even not logical sometimes, I find these things interesting , though, at least it’s how we keep the society going, and it’s something that all Taiwanese can relate to!