What is Chinese Ghost Month?

When August comes around, all of a sudden, businesses slow down, people don’t start anything new, and businessmen complain that it’s an awfully lean month. Have you ever wondered why and what exactly the beliefs are behind this strange time?

When spirits visit

There is a legend behind Ghost Month and that is that spirits come to the land of the living to visit. According to Michael Tan* who grew up practicing traditional Chinese beliefs, “It’s more like the Halloween legend when the veil between the two worlds are the weakest.”

He says they visit because they want to see their loved ones or take revenge on those who have wronged them. This is where karma comes into play. “Ghost Month is based on the Chinese calendar,” Michael says. “It’s always the mid of July of the Chinese calendar, not our July. This year, the ghost month starts on August 7 and the ghosts start arriving on August 11. The ghosts go back home on August 31.”

How to protect yourself

Because ghosts are roaming the earth, the Chinese belief dictates that we should be very careful. Michael says, “Try to avoid traveling if possible. Don’t visit people in the hospital and don’t go to wakes. Basically, don’t tempt fate.” The reason behind these precautions is that the spirits “tend to pull others with them,” explains Michael. “Para bang may kasama pauwi.”

He also warns to avoid danger. “Be extra careful when driving. Iwas init ulo,” he says. “Wearing red supposedly will help bring good luck. I have seen things that people will chalk up to coincidence, but if you see it happen often, you will believe. And it doesn’t hurt if you do. I have a wallet full of anting anting that I carry around. Of course, your faith helps a lot and the ultimate protection is prayer to God.”

Related: Chinese cures for common ailments

Offerings for the dead

When Ghost Month begins, offerings for the dead are performed. “In the morning, we have food and the like offered for the ancestors,” says Michael. “Then in the afternoon, the food offered is for the rest of the passing ghosts—to please them and so they don’t get mad at the people in the family.”

Business blackout?

If you work with the Chinese, you will notice that they would rather not do business during this time. Anton Sy* complains, “I really don’t like Ghost Month. I never do well when August hits. I can’t seem to sell anything. The Chinese won’t buy and some Filipinos have been influenced as well.”

Michael clarifies, “We don’t stop doing business during the ghost month. The belief is that if your business has been running already, there’s no need to stop. But if you plan to start a project, or basically start anything during the ghost month, don’t do it.” If you plan to begin work on a house, for example, and you already broke ground before Ghost Month, then you can continue with construction. But normally, it is not a good idea to begin a business or sign any contracts during this time.

Michael says that though his business doesn’t close, he performs several offerings to protect his family and his business. Even if you don’t believe in Ghost Month or the practices that go along with it, it’s still interesting to know the belief behind something that affects so many businesses when the month of August hits.


Yahoo! SHE asks: Do you believe in Ghost Month? What practices do you perform to ward off misfortune?

*names have been changed

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