Hungry Ghost Festival Penang

Well the gates of hell are about to break open and hordes of demons will need to be appeased with song dance and food for the 7th month of the Chinese Lunar calendar.  Yes it is the Hungry Ghost Festival, widely observed (celebrated) here in Penang, Malaysia.  This year (2014) the festival starts on the 27th of July and will run for a whole lunar month, til the next full moon on the 24th of August.

This year the start of the festival will coincide with the end of the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan.  The big holiday, Hari Raya, marking the end of fasting, is going to be the second day of the Hungry Ghost festival.  It should be interesting to see how the two cultures work together, or work around each other during these days.

Traditional observance of the Hungry Ghost Festival

The story is that the gates of hell open up for the souls of Chinese ancestors to come to earth to wander, to bother, and to eat.  The living honor the dead, and appease them, by burning joss-paper, and paper maché material goods, like houses and clothes.

Chinese opera stages are set up and loud performances run through the night for the hungry ghosts.  For many a foreigner trying to sleep near these monstrosities, this highlights the hell-on-earth aspect of the festival.

Special Hungry Ghost Festival foods

The Hungry Ghost Festival is an opportunity to find some Chinese delicacies that only become available during this month.  Look around for a colorful sweet dessert called si koh th’ng.  You can find grilled cuttle fish and Jellyfish satay. 

Where to go in Penang

The Tourism Board has a facebook event page.  Follow the Living in Penang facebook page for event announcements as well.