The Hungry Ghost Festival is a time of strange rituals and stranger sights. A little like Halloween, but scarier and with fewer sweets, the Chinese believe that during the seventh moon heaven and hell collide and the spirits of restless souls return to earth to seek revenge on those that wronged them. Think Patrick Swayze and Ghost.
In Hong Kong children are told to be home before dark, in case a wandering spirit snatches them, and people stay away from swimming pools lest an angry ghost drown them. Tales of haunting and strange sightings are also legendary.
Want to soothe any ghosts that might have you on his haunting schedule? Basically you need to give them a bribe. Perhaps somewhat depressingly for those who were hoping for beds of clouds and endless days of sunshine, Hong Kong's mixture of Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism and Ancestor worship believes the afterlife is pretty much a continuation of life on earth and what do you need on earth - cash, dough, moola. So if you want to make a an angry spirit happy, pay him off with Hell Bank Notes - redeemable at all good banks in the land of Lucifer.
Hell must be pricey because hell bank notes are fake notes of HK$10million HK$20million and higher that are burnt as an offering to the ghosts in the hope it will make them rich and happy in the afterlife. Hong Kongers also try to buy off ghouls with paper creations of cars, apple iPhones and just about any other desirable consumer goods. In 2012 the festival falls on the 17th of August and you’ll often see Hong Kongers crouched by the road side playing arson with their paper offerings.
Hong Kongers will often burn paper offerings at gravesides throughout the year and the festival is also popular in Taiwan and parts of China.