The Ghost Festival or the Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday celebrated by Chinese in many countries. In the Chinese calendar (a lunisolar calendar), the Ghost Festival is on the 15th night of the seventh lunar month.
In Chinese tradition, the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day and the seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month (鬼月), in which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. Distinct from both the Qingming Festival (in Spring) and Chung Yeung Festival (in Autumn) in which living descendants pay homage to their deceased ancestors, on Ghost Day, the deceased are believed to visit the living.
On the fifteenth day the realms of Heaven and Hell and the realm of the living are open and both Taoists and Buddhists would perform rituals to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased. Intrinsic to the Ghost Month is ancestor worship, where traditionally the filial piety of descendants extends to their ancestors even after their deaths. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, and burning joss paper, a papier-mache form of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors. Elaborate meals (often vegetarian meals) would be served with empty seats for each of the deceased in the family treating the deceased as if they are still living.
Ancestor worship is what distinguishes Qingming Festival from Ghost Festival because the latter includes paying respects to all deceased, including the same and younger generations, while the former only includes older generations. Other festivities may include, buying and releasing miniature paper boats and lanterns on water, which signifies giving directions to the lost ghosts and spirits of the ancestors and other deities.
Both Buddhists and Taoists claim that the Ghost Festival originated with their religion but its roots are probably in Chinese folk religion and antedates both religions. In the Tang Dynasty, the Buddhist festival Ullambana and the Ghost Festival were mixed and celebrated together.
The Ghost Festival in Malaysia is modernized by the 'concert-like' live performances. It has its own characteristics and is not similar to other Ghost Festivals in other countries. The live show is popularly known as 'Koh-tai' by the Hokkien-speaking people, performed by a group of singers, dancers and entertainers on a temporary stage that setup within the residential district. The festival is funded by the residents of each individual residential districts.