On the first day we toured Taipei we saw people burn paper in metal burners the size of a tar bucket. Our guide said, “Oh, Ghost Month is starting.” We’ve learned since that this is quite a big deal.
According to the Centered On Taipei (Summer 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 10), the Ghost Month is always the 7th lunar month of the year. It is reserved for the dead who parished far away from home with no one to perform their burials. “The Chinese believe these people then become ghosts or wandering souls, and can cause problems for the living if not regularly appeased.” So on the first day of the Ghost Month, “… which begins on August 10th, 2010, the Gates of Heaven and Hell open, the dead walk the earth for one months – and they’re in need of food and entertainment. ” Ah ha, this was why we saw shop-owners and others burn paper money and present food offerings.
Many Taiwanese still believe this is a month of caution. Here are a short list to guide those who are ignorant like I am:
– Make offerings of food, drinks, and articles of use to the deceased.
– Burn ghost money.
You Shouldn’t (and the don’ts are three times more):
– Go swimming – swimmers can be pulled underwarter by the ghosts of people who drowned there.
– Go outside after sunset – wandering spirits are everywhere at this time of year.
– Move house, which upsets spirits looking for their ancestral home.
– Open a business – it’s bad luck.
– Hold a wedding ceremony.
– No calling the spirits ‘ghosts.’ At this time of year, it ‘s polite to call them ‘Good Brothers'”
On the 29th day of the month, the Gates of Heaven and Hells close and ghost return to their underworld and Taiwan returns to normal.
Man, we were so close to offend the restless spirits: got married on August 6th, moved out on the 7th, flew off on the 8th, landed on the 10th, just when the Gates opened. Whew! Thank you, Good Brothers. We know we are very blessed.