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'Chinese Halloween': The Ghost festival kicks off on Hainan

In South China, Zhongyuanjie is an important date

BEIJING, August 15. /TASS/. Hainan residents celebrate an important date this week - the Hungry Ghost festival, which some jokingly call the "Chinese Halloween." On this date, it is customary to launch lanterns in the air or along the river, treat oneself to exotic delicacies, as well as appease ghosts with treats.

According to legends, usually on the 15th of the 7th month according to the lunar calendar (this year falls on August 15), the souls of the deceased take to the streets with at night to walk alongside the living. According to Buddhist tradition, people on this date visit the graves of those who recently passed away, paying their respects. At the same time, it is customary to appease "wandering" ghosts - the spirits who, due to special circumstances of their deaths, could not find peace. The Hainan residents usually launch paper lanterns into the air on this occasion; the lanters are considered magical, because, according to legends, they "help to send unsatisfied ghosts to heaven."

In various regions of China there are many superstitious restrictions on this day associated with the need to avoid dangerous contacts with the ghosts of the deceased, as a result of which, according to ancient beliefs, the ghosts can take hold of a person’s body, and their own soul will become a shell, or will destroyed by the intruder. For example, before going to bed, one should put slippers in front of the bed so that they look in an opposite direction, in order to confuser the ghosts. People shouldn’t be calling each other by their names in the evenings, dry clothes at dusk, say the word “ghost”, mock the underworld, pick up money from the pavement as it is believed that the money now belongs to the spirits. Also, one should not lean their backs against the walls, turn around if someone pats them on the shoulder, stay awake at night, stroll along the banks of rivers and ponds.

“No matter what they say, however, the people of Hainan treat this special day with reverence,” said one of the locals. “Local residents know ways to turn the Ghost Day into a cheerful spiritual holiday.”

Some people on the Island of Hainan also traditionally believe that on this day one should not leave the house for long, go to the hairdresser, buy clothes, shoes and products made of wood - otherwise, according to legend, there is a danger that perfumes will take someone’s life from loved ones. At the same time, it is believed that a person should visit crowded places where, in the midst of general fun, he can dump negative energy from himself.

In South China, Zhongyuanjie is a significant date, second only to two major events: the traditional New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival Zhongjujie. It is also believed on this day the god of the earth was born. Buddhists, as a rule, on this occasion pay respects to their ancestors praying for the dead, hold religious events.