If you have a Chinese mother, has she been scaring the sh-t out of you lately?
Yesterday I mentioned that August 8 was the luckiest day of the year…but at the same time, in Chinese culture, it’s also the most haunted month of the year. Literally we call it Ghost Month, which happens during the seventh month of the lunar calendar. In 2022, Ghost Month started on July 29 and goes until August 26 and the high point – or low point – of Ghost Month is Ghost Festival which is August 12. That means this coming Friday is supposed to be the spookiest.
In Chinese culture, Ghost Month is when the gates of heaven and hell are open, allowing spirits to roam among the living and visit the people they long to see. So it’s a time for remembering your ancestors and loved ones and we’re supposed to leave food and burn offerings to pay our respects. All of this sounds kind of sweet but respect also means respecting the fact that these are ghosts and sometimes ghosts get lost, and those who come around aren’t necessarily ghosts who wish you well.
That’s why many of us raised in Chinese customs observe certain rules during Ghost Month. And for whatever reason, Ghost Month 2022 is supposedly more haunted than usual, according to my Ma and all my aunties in Hong Kong who are being even more dramatic than they typically are with Ghost Festival this year, going to temple to pray for extra charms and protective scrolls. Ma has been all over me with the warnings and the talismans for weeks. Just this weekend I was sent home with another charm to hang in the car (urgently sent to me by my auntie Lai in Hong Kong) and a new amulet to keep on my person and every night she’s calling me to tell me not to go out alone and to remember the basics. Here are some of the basics that have f-cked me up my whole life:
We’re not supposed to say our own names or call out other people’s names too much during Ghost Month so as to make sure “they” don’t hear them and repeat them. If a ghost calls out your name it’s like the underworld calling you down. So we’re advised to use nicknames instead.
If you hear your name called at night, don’t turn around.
Don’t hang your clothes out to dry outside at night – because “they” will wear them.
And don’t take photos at night during Ghost Month and never ever ever on Ghost Festival day because you might inadvertently get a shot of one of “them” and if a ghost knows you can see them, they won’t leave you alone. Not sure how this is working out in our time of constantly taking pictures with our devices but I can promise you, I don’t mess around with the camera thing during Ghost Month – a cute selfie is not worth being cursed.
If you’re reading this and you’re not familiar with Chinese traditions, I know it sounds absurd. But this is the sh-t we were told as children and some things you just can’t shake even if you want to. Again, my ma has been relentless about Ghost Month and Ghost Festival cautions for weeks now. Every conversation I have with her comes back around to how hungry this year’s ghosts will be and that I must be super vigilant.
Which brings us to the other night, and Jacek was in our yard practising his golf swing when a man walked by and started watching. Jacek is out with our dogs a lot, at least three times a day, and he knows most people in our neighbourhood, he’d never seen this person before. After standing outside our gate for a while, the man said to Jacek that it looked fun what he was doing and asked him if he could come inside to talk….
This is when our dogs came charging out of the house, barking mad. Jacek was like, uhhhh, no, you can’t come in, I’m busy. Our dogs wouldn’t stop yelling. The man seemed put off by them and muttered, “Oh you have two dogs”, and walked away. The thing is, I heard Jacek and of course I heard my dogs because they were loud as f-ck, and I can tell the difference in the intensity of their shouting when it’s just the garbage truck going by compared to how they are when they’re being aggressive. But what I didn’t hear was the man’s voice…I thought Jacek was talking on the phone.
Who was he? Was he just a neighbour we just happen to have never encountered after ten years of living in our neighbourhood? Or…was he something else?
Jacek hasn’t seen that dude again.
I’m not telling you to believe. I’m just saying, it wouldn’t hurt to be more careful during Ghost Month. Especially at night. There’s nothing you have to buy, nothing you have to sacrifice, just be mindful of your surroundings and dial up the sensitivity on your creep meter.
Yours in gossip,