TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In an unusual gesture to show respect for local Taiwanese culture, the U.S. de facto embassy on Wednesday (Sept. 2) posted photos of its staff observing Ghost Festival (鬼節 or 中元節).
Ghost Festival Day (中元普度) falls halfway through Ghost Month (鬼月) on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunisolar calendar, which this year was Sept. 2. Devout Taoists and Buddhists believe that during this time of year, the gates of hell are opened for a full month so that hungry ghosts can roam the world of the living in search of food, money, entertainment, and possibly souls.
Offerings typically given on this day include rice wine, fruits, chicken, pork, fish, snacks, incense, and joss paper. Gold joss paper is burned for the gods, while silver joss paper is burned for spirits.
Christensen lighting a candle on an altar. (Facebook, AIT photo)
The terms "Good Brothers" (好兄弟) and "Good Sisters" (好姐妹), as opposed to "ghosts," are considered preferable when referring to lost souls to avoid offending them. These apparitions are not worshiped in the same way as ancestors and vary from pitiful to dangerous.
To mark the occasion, the American Institute in Taiwan on Wednesday posted photos on its Facebook page of staff members, led by AIT Director William Brent Christensen in holding incense and praying for peace.
AIT Deputy Director Raymond Greene placing incense on offerings. (Facebook, AIT photo)
In the caption, AIT wrote that the ceremony was held to honor ancestors during the "Hungry Ghost Festival" by providing a "feast for wandering ghosts." The caption also asked readers to mention how they spend the day with their family, prompting 12,000 likes, 1,900 shares, and 689 comments, including photos of a cornucopia of offerings.
Based on the photos posted on Facebook, the offerings include fruits, various dishes, steamed buns, rice, soup, soft drinks, flowers, soybean oil, paper lotus flowers, sycee (silver or gold ingots, 元寶), and joss paper notes printed to mimic Taiwan dollars, U.S. dollars, Japanese Yen, and Euros.
AIT staff members taking part in Ghost Festival ceremony. (Facebook, AIT photo)
Incense being burned as offering to spirits. (Facebook, AIT photo)
AIT staff member preparing joss paper for burning. (Facebook, AIT photo)
(Facebook, AIT photo)