The streets near our office in Xindian were packed this afternoon with people making offerings to mark the impending arrival of Ghost Month. This officially starts tomorrow on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar (中元節), upon which all the ghosts and spirits are believed to emerge from hell to haunt the earth.
Ghost Month is a big deal in Taiwan, though not in China. There are a lot of Buddhist and Taoist ceremonies held on the island during this period to appease the ghosts and spirits and show respect to deceased ancestors. It’s considered best to avoid medical procedures, house-moving, swimming, marriages, and other activities because of the increased risk of incurring ill fortune.
The next major event in the lunar calendar after Ghost Month draws to a close is Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節), which takes place on Monday September 24. Moon cakes will no doubt start appearing in abundance in preparation for the celebration of that.
One of the things I most enjoy about living in Taiwan is having the opportunity to experience Chinese traditional culture at first hand – whether it’s looking at the colorful offerings displayed on the streets during festivals or going to the temple with my wife to “baibai” (拜拜) at the weekend.
Nowhere else in the world has this remarkable millennia-old culture been preserved so faithfully and nurtured with such vigor and vibrance. In this rapidly changing world, it provides a pivotal role in linking the past to the present and the future.