Know The Differences Between Western Halloween and Chinese Ghost Festival

HSK 3 quiz

Many countries celebrate Halloween whereas the ghost festival celebration in China is called “中元节 (Zhōngyuánjié)” – The Hungry Ghost festival.

万圣节 (Wànshèngjié)

Western Halloween celebrations throw costume parties where people participate in cosplay. The streets are filled with spectacular live performances, intricately staged displays with realistic corpses and ghosts, and screenings of horror films.

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As time went by, the celebration of Halloween became more and more festive. So now the symbol of Halloween has evolved to captivate the imagination with figures such as jack-o-lanterns, witches, zombies, and vampires. Americans, who love to be creative, try their best to dress up as scary characters like ghosts on this day to make the festival more interesting.

But the Hungry Ghost Festival in China has big differences, let’s learn about it – 中元节 (Zhōngyuánjié)!

The Hungry Ghost Festival is the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. The festival starts on the first day of July and lasts for one month from July 30. It is a traditional Chinese festival for presenting special offerings to ancestors.

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During the Hungry Ghost Festival, people can burn paper money to send blessings to their deceased relatives and ancestors. People often send off lanterns on rivers to sustain their well-wishes toward missed relatives and friends who have gone.

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In the hungry ghost festival culture, there were some taboos and things that must be avoided in the past years. So what were they?

1. Try not to go out on 中元节 (Zhōngyuánjié), especially at night, and try to go to bed early. It is said you may meet a ghost if you go out on that day. Also, don’t walk around rivers, you could possibly fall into the water then become the ghost’s replacement.

2. Don’t wear all red, black, white, or blue.
3. If you find money on the road, don’t pick it up.
4. Don’t turn back easily! When you are walking in the wilderness or a sparsely populated place and feel someone calling you, do not turn back easily, it may be the ghost calling you.

5. Don’t hang out at the fork in a road, dark corridors, or the shade of trees.
6. Don’t stand close to the pagoda tree, which is the ghost tree.

So far, some of these taboos are still kept alive. During the Hungry Ghost Festival, Chinese people are always extra careful about the various taboos that could bring bad luck, so the Hungry Ghost Festival is particularly quiet serious. But among all the festivals in foreign countries, Halloween is the most delightful and intriguing holiday for people besides Christmas.

Halloween is mainly about exorcising ghosts while the Chinese Ghost Festival is mainly about offerings to the departed. Now that you know the differences between the two take the quiz to evaluate yourself.

HSK 3 quiz

1. Which of the following statement is correct according to the article?

Zhōngyuánjié hé Wànshèngjié de xísú bùtóng.
A. 中元节和万圣节的习俗不同。

Zhōngyuánjié hé Wànshèngjié dōu zhǐ chíxù yìtiān.
B. 中元节和万圣节都只持续一天。

Zhōngyuánjié hé Wànshèngjié dōu shì kuàilè de fēnwéi.

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