In 2017, The Hungry Ghost Festival Isn’t On August. Here’s Why

As a Singaporean, regardless of your race or religion, chances are that you know of the Hungry Ghost Festival, or have at least heard about it from people around you.

During mid-August, you’ve probably witnessed groups of people burning joss paper in incense burners around void decks, or seen the huge and impressive stages reserved for Getai performances.

But did you know that this year’s Hungry Ghost Festival is a little different?

Some Background Information

The Hungry Ghost Festival is a Buddhist and Taoist festival set on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, also known as the Ghost Month or 七月 (qi yue).

It is believed that during this month, the gates to Hell are opened and ghosts and spirits are free to roam the earth and are often believed to visit their living relatives.

Apart from a whole list of taboos to be observed by the superstitious and even the non-superstitious alike, Taoists and Buddhists pay respects to their ancestors by burning incense and joss paper as offerings.

In Singapore, another unique part of the Hungry Ghost Festival and the Ghost Month would be the staging of Getai, a popular performance held in residential areas that is aimed at entertaining both the living and the spirits.

Hungry Ghost Festival 2017

While the Festival itself usually falls on the third or fourth week of August, seven months after the Lunar New Year, it’s a little special in 2017!

This year, the festival actually falls on the 5th of September, much later than what we are used to, and the reason why this is happening is actually really cool.

Turns out that this year is scheduled to have a leap month, whereby a whole extra month is added to the Lunar Year, which happens about every three years in the Lunar Calendar. After the sixth lunar month ends on July 22, another sixth lunar month will be observed until August 21, following which the Ghost Month begins.

Since the Ghost Month begins late, the Ghost Festival is naturally pushed back to a date later than usual, hence falling on September 5.

Fun Fact: because of this, Chinese New Year in 2018 is also fairly late, scheduled for 16 February instead of the dates we’re used to in late January or early February.

For better illustration and understanding, as shown from this July Lunar Calendar, the sixth month ends on 22 July. Afterwards, 23 July says “閏六月初一”, which loosely translates to “First Day of Sixth Leap Month”, instead of moving on to the seventh month.

A whole new month is added! How cool is that?


Now that you know why the Hungry Ghost Festival is in September instead of August, you can impress your friends with your impressive knowledge of the Lunar Calendar!

However, regardless of whether you’re superstitious or not, remember to keep your eye on the taboos observed during this period and be respectful.

Better to be safe than be sorry!

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Featured Image: Ngo Thye Aun /