Over the past two weeks, the city’s hot, hazy streets have often been filled with the smell of burning incense as Hongkongers gather on the roadside, tossing piles of joss paper into small fires.
These scenes are part of the rituals surrounding “Ghost Month” – the seventh month of the lunar calendar – when many believe ghosts and spirits roam the earth. The burning of joss paper money and other papier-mâché offerings – together with the serving of fruit and vegetables – are commonly regarded as ways to guide lost ghosts and honour the spirits of ancestors.
Depending on ethnic descent, some people celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival on the 14th day of the Ghost Month, while others – mostly the Chiu Chow community – commemorates the festival a day later.
On Wednesday evening, the 15th day of the Ghost Month, HKFP visited several districts and spoke with Hongkongers who honoured the tradition.
Ms Ko, a vendor in Prince Edward, conducted the ritual in front of her street stall. She put incense sticks on some pieces of carrot and had prepared fruits and vegetables such as longan and bean sprouts.
“I’ve done this for many years now, but I don’t really know the meaning behind the food items,” Ko told HKFP.
Some myths suggest that tofu and bean sprouts are essential items to give to wandering ghosts, whom some believe can only consume soft and moist foods.
Another vendor in Sham Shui Po – Mr Wong – prepared similar offerings as Ko. He told HKFP that stall owners in the area had chipped in to prepare a large-scale ritual the night before, creating a spectacle of blazing flames in the crowded neighbourhood.
“I don’t have a particular reason for doing this ritual, but generally to pay respect to the ghosts and spirits,” Wong said.
Others put a political twist on the festival this year as a group of artists gathered to burn satirical items on Tuesday, including “hell money” featuring Chief Executive Carrie Lam.