The Hungry Ghost Festival is an annual month-long traditional Chinese celebration which starts from the fifteenth night of the seventh lunar month and is celebrated on a grand scale in Penang. The Chinese believe that every year, the Gates of Hell are opened for spirits and ghosts to return to earth and roam freely in search of food and to visit their living ancestors.
During this month, one will see makeshift alters erected along roadsides with the burning of paper effigies and joss sticks as well as the offering of a grand feast to the Ghost King and wandering spirits. Staged opera performances and puppet shows are also conducted at these venues on a nightly basis, not just for the entertainment of the spirits but for the public as well. For some, a feast will be prepared at home specially for departed ancestors who “return home”.