Crowded markets and supermarkets, food offerings being made everywhere, the lingering scent of incense in the air, and the smoke from burning ghost money rising from large metal containers. Yes, it is the 7th month of the lunar calendar and ‘Ghost Month’ (鬼月) has begun in Taiwan!! And that means the performance of several customs and rituals. Plus, a large number of precautions being taken to ensure safety during this month (more on precautions in my next blog).
Religious beliefs are deeply rooted in Taiwanese culture. According to these beliefs, several rituals must be conducted to ensure the safety of family and to honor the passing of ancestors. Many of these traditions play an important role during Ghost Month.
During ‘Ghost Month,’ it is believed that the gates of hell are opened and the ghosts and spirits are free to roam the earth among the living. During this time, the ghosts are said to enjoy the offerings made by the living and spend ghost money burned by believers. Families offer food, money, and incense to ghosts and spirits to ensure no bad luck is left on their doorsteps.
If you happen to go shopping at supermarkets and markets during the days leading up to offering (bai bai) days, you will be faced with long-ups and many displays crowding the aisles. One of my friends compared it to Christmas in the States: retailers take advantage of all available space to ensure ample supply and high sales.
Today is the 15th day of ghost month and the streets of Taiwan are a buzz of activity in the early afternoon today. A vast number of tables are placed in front of houses and businesses. The tables contain offerings of ghost money and food with several incense sticks randomly stuck in and around the food. Even though there has been one torrential downpour after another in my area today, that hasn’t stop Taiwanese from creating their make-shift alters, making their offerings, and burning ghost money. All families are out ‘bai bai’ing (which loosely means worship) in the rain. The offerings are of the upmost importance today as it is considered 中元節 and it is believed the ghosts are at their peak today.
The pictures included in this blog were taken today. I braved the rain to capture the photos of some of the offerings around my residence. Be sure to check back for the second blog entry about Ghost Month entitled ‘Ghost Month: Watch Your P’s and Q’s.’