Social Media


Kid-friendly Guide to the Hungry Ghost Festival 2023

hungry ghost festival meaning singapore
Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily LifeWhat's OnPost Category - What's OnWhat's On - Post Category - Things to Do With KidsThings to Do With Kids

All you need to know about the Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 in Singapore so you can explain this traditional Chinese festival to kids. Hungry Ghost Festival is held during the seventh month of the lunar calendar, aka Ghost Month!

The seventh month, August, is when the Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 takes place! If you’re seeing lots of incense candles and food offerings in your neighbourhood, it’s likely because people are celebrating Ghost Month. Let’s take a look at what the Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 in Singapore is all about.

The Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Chinese festival (also known as Zhong Yuan Jie 中元节 in Mandarin) and marks the opening of the Gates of Hell. Often called Chinese Ghost Festival, it’s celebrated by Buddhist and Taoist devotees to honour the memories of the deceased.

When is Hungry Ghost Festival 2023?

Hungry Ghost Festival takes place traditionally on the 15th night of the 7th month which is sometimes called Chinese Ghost Month. This year, Ghost Day is on the 30 August, 2023 which is a Wednesday.

Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 start and end date

The ‘festivities’ of Hungry Ghost Festival are a month-long affair during the 7th month/Ghost month so the actual start and end date of Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 is  16 August 2023 until 14 September 2023.

hungry ghost festival
Burning paper effigies during Hungry Ghost Festival

How is the Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 celebrated?

During the Hungry Ghost Festival, the Chinese believe that ghosts and spirits, including deceased ancestors, roam the earth on a kind of ‘vacation’. During this ghost month and particularly on the 15th day, they wander around searching for food and entertainment or visit the living.

As a form of ancestor worship and to appease these spirits, all sorts of offerings are made during the Hungry Ghost Festival, especially on the three main days: the 1st, 15th and last day of the 7th month.

During Ghost month/ 7th month

During Ghost month (7th month) people will burn offerings in special metal cages set up outside housing estates and temples. Items such as paper money, incense candles/joss sticks and elaborate paper effigies of material goods, such as houses, cars and even outfits are burned so the departed can use them in the afterlife. The paper creations are a marvel to see (you can often find them at HDB markets – there are shops offering them at Tiong Bahru market and Chinatown).

Another important part of the offerings during the Hungry Ghost festival is food. Those celebrating will leave food on the sidewalk or at temples to satisfy the ghosts’ appetites, appease their deceased family members and in return bring good luck.

What not to do during Hungry Ghost Festival 2023

The 7th month is considered an inauspicious month, so there are lots of ‘don’ts’ in order to avoid encountering ‘bad luck’. A few include:

  • Don’t stay out late/in the dark
  • Don’t disturb the offerings
  • Don’t swim (and avoid any water activities)
  • Don’t hang your clothes outside to dry too late
  • Don’t pick up anything from the ground
  • Don’t turn your head when someone calls you

During the seventh month, some families may get the kids to wear a small red triangular religious pendant (within the pendant are religious papers from the temple) to their shirts to protect them during this month. Some people keep the paper in their wallets and others wear religious bracelets during this time.

Hungry Ghost Festival guide
Getai Performances at Hungry Ghost Festival: Chinese Opera

Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival Performances

One of the highlights of the Hungry Ghost festival in Singapore is the colourful performances of Chinese operas and live drama ‘getai’ performances. Getai used to be a stage for traditional opera and puppet performances, with a majority of songs performed in dialects such as Hokkien. In Singapore, performances for the Hungry Ghost Festival have evolved to include modern pop songs in Chinese and even Korean.

Large tents are set up near housing estates with these performances as well as e-Getai – livestreamed performances online. If you do see any physical shows, visitors are welcome but always ensure you leave the front row of seats empty – those are for the honoured ghosts themselves.

Read More: Kid-Friendly Guide to Chinatown

Lead image: Choo Yut Shing via Flickr, 1st image Choo Yut Shing via Flickr, 2nd image by Crystal via Flickr

more sassy mama

What's New

We're social

We're social

What we're up to and what inspires us