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Just as the West has Halloween for ghosts and ghouls, so also does Taiwan have a holiday to fete the departed spirits of the underworld : Ghost Festival, a popular occasion celebrated throughout China on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. Historically, families offer sacrifices of the newly harvested grain to departed ancestors on this day, which also coincides with the Buddhist Ullambana (Deliverance) Festival and the Taoist Ghost Festival. Since each of these traditions in some way honors the spirits of the departed the seventh lunar month has come to be known as Ghost Month, celebrated as a time when the "Good Brethren," ghosts from the underworld, come back to earth to feast on the victuals offered by the living. Over time the Ullambana Festival and Ghost Festival have melded together to become the present day Chung Yuan Putu or "Mid-origin Passage to Universal Salvation."
In Taiwan, Ghost Festival is passed by slaughtering a pig and sheep, which together with a prodigious table of wine and meat is offered to one's ancestors and ghosts from the underworld. Numerous Putu festivities are also held at this time around the island, crowned by the grand Keelung Ghost Day Ceremony.
The Chinese believe that the dead become ghosts roaming between Heaven and earth. Spirits without descendants to care for them are prayed to during Ghost Festival so that they may also enjoy the warmth of life among the living. This custom, an extension of the traditional Chinese ethic of "universal love," has been woven together with the didactic legend "Mulien Saving His Mother From Hades," giving Ghost Festival positive significance as a time for remembering the importance of filial piety.
Today, Ghost Festival is more modest than in the past both in grandeur and scale as the government encourages more frugal forms of prayer in folk customs. This kind of economy is an apt realization of virtuous action that the Festival has always meant to foster.