August 3rd-17th is Ghost Month or Hungry Ghost Festival in parts of Asia, also known as Yu Lan Jie (盂蘭節). It’s a Taoist and Buddhist festival in which it is believed the deceased return to visit the living as ghosts. It venerates not only your own deceased family members but all dead persons. Rituals are performed to absolve them of their sufferings, please them, welcome their visits, and offerings are left by families to honor the dead.
Food is left out for the ghosts, and incense and joss paper (gold paper loosely known as “ghost money”) or paper mache items such as clothing, televisions, even cars are burned in their names so that they might use them in the afterlife. At family meals places are set for the deceased so they can join in.
Tribute is also paid to unknown wandering ghosts who may not have families to visit during the festival so that these spirits don’t interfere with their lives during the rest of the year. Lotus shaped lanterns are lit and sent floating to guide these souls to the afterlife.
There are many rules/taboos during this month that must be followed. People are discouraged from walking at night, swimming (it’s thought that drowned ghosts might try to jealously drown swimmers), don’t pick up coins or things found on the street, not wear red (ghosts are drawn to it), don’t whistle or sing, and don’t sleep near a mirror, and many others.
This festival seems like such a beautiful idea to me, honoring those that have passed as though they are all around us.