Blog Culture

Halloween and Chinese Ghost Festival

Halloween (万圣节) (wan4 sheng4 jie2) is here. It is the happiest day for kids, at least for my kids.

When I just came to America, I didn’t understand why people are so happy on this day. It seems American people enjoy playing with anything related with ghost (鬼) (gui3) and death (死亡) (si3 wang2).

They put on scary (吓人的) (xia4 ren2 de) clothes (衣服) (yi1 fu2), dress up looking like a ghost or anything weird.

To them, a skull (头骨) (tou2 gu3) is not a dead person’s head, it seems a perfect decoration for the Halloween.

Americans are not scared of dead body at all, they even hang up the fake one everywhere. Also, I was surprised to see that people even live close to the cemetery (墓地) (mu4 di4).

In Chinese culture, the cemetery must be located at far away remote places like the hill (山) (shan1) or a wild field (野地) (ye3 di4).

As a new immigrant, it is very confusing to see things are so different in America.

In Chinese culture we also have a Ghost festival (鬼节) (gui3 jie2).

On that day, we were asked to be home in case of the ghost will come out walking on the street and grabbing us. The street is usually empty. Everyone is home with a scared feeling that a ghost might walk around the corner.

My parents will cook delicious (可口的) (ke3 kou3 de) dishes, put two bowls filled with rice (米饭) (mi3 fan4) and have chopsticks (筷子) (kuai4 zi3) standing straight in the rice.

By the way, if you see the chopsticks standing straight in the rice, it means this bowl of rice is served for the dead person. You are not supposed to eat the rice.

My parents told us, on this day, our passed away grandparents will come home to enjoy the dinner (晚餐) (wan3 can1) with us.

Before we have the dinner, my dad will fill wine to two small cups and say something about how we missed them in front of the picture of my grandparents, then bow (鞠躬) (ju1 gong1) to pour out the wine on the floor, then we start to eat.

In my memory, ghost festival is not fun at all. It is related with a scary feeling and rite (仪式) (yi2 shi4) of memorizing passed away family (家人) (jia1 ren2).

Besides ghost festival, in Chinese culture, we also have another day for our ancestors. It is called Tomb sweeping day (清明节) (qing1 ming2 jie2).

On that day, family will go to the cemetery to clean the tomb, burn some hell bank notes (冥币) (min2 bi4) and serve dishes and fruits.

We believe our ancestors still need these things in another world just like we need these things in our current life.

When I was little, I remember, my grandmother on my father side (奶奶) (nai3 nai) will pay someone to make very beautiful colorful paper house, furniture, clothes in small scale and bring them to my grandfather’s tomb to burn all of them.

My grandmother told us my grandfather need these in that world. If we didn’t buy for him, he will have a miserable poor life there.

Because of this thought, my grandmother will buy a lot of hell bank notes once in a while for my grandfather.

One day, she said with a sad expression (表情) (biao3 qing2): “If I passed away, I am not sure if you will do this for me.”

Twenty years ago, my grandmother passed away. My parents and uncles went to my grandfather (爷爷) (ye2 ye) and grandmother’s tombs each year to burn hell bank notes for them, but they won’t burn those beautiful craft paper houses and furniture, clothes any more.

It is just impossible to find a person to make those vivid crafts these days. We lost a lot of traditions with the time passing by. Like the ghost festival, many people even forget it. more and more young people start to celebrate Halloween.

Maybe it is not bad. In Chinese culture, death is a taboo topic (禁忌话题) (jin4 ji4 hua4 ti2). We hold an aloof (冷淡的) (leng3 dan4 de) attitude toward the death even it is a part of our life.

After living in American for years, I start to be used to the hilarious scene on Halloween. I now accept that the death could be a subject to celebrate (庆祝) (qing4 zhu4) and maybe make fun Of.

Happy Halloween (万圣节快乐) (wan4 sheng4 jie2 kuai4 le4)!

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