Updated August 2022.
In Vietnam, the Lunar Calendar is deeply followed, whether it is out of celebration or fear. While it is known as a festival, the Hungry Ghosts’ month is a time to respect and worship ancestors. Many fear bad luck or blame anything unlucky happening on evil lost souls. This is an important festival to be conscious about if you are in Vietnam during this time as it is thought to apply to all who pass through. Read our guide below.
When is the Hungry Ghost Festival?
This is another important date on the Lunar calendar. It is traditionally acknowledged on the 15th night of the 7th Lunar month. In 2022, this falls on 12 August in the Western calendar.
What is the Hungry Ghost Festival?
Like other parts of East Asia, Vietnam believes that Hungry Ghost month can bring bad luck because of the curses of wandering lost souls. But on the other hand, it is also known as a time of forgiveness by the living for the most sinful deceased. This belief mostly originates from Taoist and Buddhist thought. It is believed that the gate of hell opens in the 7th Lunar month and then ghosts from the Lower Realm roam freely on Earth among the living.
In the Buddhist calendar, this month is associated with the story of Ananda, the attendant of Buddha. The story goes that Ananda was meditating when a fiery ghost appeared demanding food for hungry ghosts or else imminent death would be the punishment.
It is widely thought that during this month, ancestors will wander with blessings while “lost ghosts” with no home will wander around lost and bitter. They have no relatives or are forgotten so choose to curse bad luck upon living strangers. Therefore, the living believe in praying and presenting offerings to maintain compassion.
How is the Hungry Ghost Festival Celebrated?
The Hungry Ghosts Festival is observed throughout the full seventh Lunar month (in 2022 from 29 July to 26 August). Generally, two feasts will be prepared during on the 15th day of the Lunar month, one for your own ancestors early in the day and another one for the lost souls after sunset. Offerings are made in the pagodas and food offered to the lost souls is kept vegan. What is known as ‘hell money’ is offered through fires on the streets. Many also believe that during this month you should be vegetarian to keep a pure diet. People will go to temples to pray for deceased relatives and monks will give special prayers to forgive condemned souls.