Ghost Month in Keelung : Parades, Lanterns, and Rituals

Elaborately decorated temple in Keelung

When I lived in Taipei, I had the opportunity to travel to Keelung during Ghost Month.  My trip to Keelung was perfectly timed to coincide with the middle of Ghost Month which was the climax of the celebrations in the Northern Taiwan port city. 

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My husband and I left Taipei rather early that day to avoid the potential traffic jams which were bound to happen later that day. When we arrived in Keelung, it was a beautiful, sunny, and very hot day.  We asked around about the Ghost Month celebrations and the locals instructed us to head to the Matzu Temple overlooking the port and the coastline.  We made our way up the hill and found the temple and all the lanterns that were scheduled to be burnt later that night.

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We were approached by a another local who explained the ins and outs of Ghost Month to us like the precautions taken as well as the offerings made.  The temple was elaborately painted and decorated with cardboard-like stairs, fences, gates, and doors.  All of the home-shaped, paper-made lanterns shaped on display around the temple grounds would later be part of the night parade and then burnt and released into the water.  I really enjoyed walking around the area and admiring the craftsmanship of the lanterns.

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We made our way to downtown Keelung and secured the perfect place to watch the parade which was scheduled to take place later that day. As time ticked away and the start time of the event fast approaching, crowds of people made their way to the area and lined the streets. When the parade started, floats completely decorated with flowers containing paper lanterns made their way down the road to be admired by the spectators.  People adoring lion and dragon costumes danced and swayed to the beating drums, bands played a marching tune, and families containing the same surname marched in harmony.  It was very ironic: it was a beautiful event to witness but at the same time, it was Ghost Month, a month that most believers fear and make adjustments to their daily routine. 

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The floats containing the lanterns continued to make their way towards the harbor.  We were informed that the lanterns would be ignited and released into the water after 11:00 pm which was unfortunately too late for us considering that we had to drive back to Taipei and we had to get up for work bright and early the next morning.

So, the next morning, I bought the English newspaper and saw the picture of the flaming lanterns being released in the water by some the residents of Keelung on the front page.  It was a quite the spectacle that I wished I had witnessed.  But I will in the future and that is a promise that I make to myself!

Want to know more about Ghost Month?  Check out my other blogs about the topic!


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