Chinese Halloween Holiday Traditions

By Jennifer Dubowsky
Jennifer Dubowsky
Jennifer Dubowsky
October 30, 2015 Updated: October 30, 2015

I love Halloween; it’s one of my favorite holidays. When I was little my mother would go to great lengths to make me the perfect costume. In junior high, I won a costume contest at school by dressing as a bunch of grapes. My costume consisted of numerous purple balloons sewn all around me onto my leotard. You can see my mom’s handy work in the picture below. Too late, I realized that I would not be able to sit at my desk, but I didn’t care. I received a $5.00 gift certificate to a bookstore and thought I was very cool!

In junior high, I won a costume contest at school by dressing as a bunch of grapes. (Credit:

In China, they do not celebrate Halloween but they do have a festival for the hungry ghost. The Chinese believe that beginning in mid-August, and lasting for a month, wandering spirits are unleashed from the gates of hell and return to earth to search for their loved ones and maybe even to seek revenge if they had been wronged. These ghosts are referred to as “hungry” because they have been imprisoned in hell and are hungry and poor. The story goes that these souls are angered by their abandonment and seek to punish the living. That could keep you up at night!

In response, the Chinese celebrate The Feast of the Hungry Ghost to remember their dead family members and pay tribute to them. To satisfy the spirits and subdue their antagonistic feelings, people leave offerings of large meals at alters, pray, and burn incense, all to appease the spirits. Children are advised to return home early and not to wander around alone at night because they might be possessed by the roving ghosts.  So, I guess there’s not much trick or treating in China (at least no treats).

Jennifer Dubowsky, LAc, is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in downtown Chicago, Illinois, since 2002. Dubowsky earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from University of Illinois in Chicago and her Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Colorado. During her studies, she completed an internship at the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing, China. Dubowsky has researched and written articles on Chinese medicine and has given talks on the topic. She maintains a popular blog about health and Chinese medicine at Acupuncture Blog Chicago. Adventures in Chinese Medicine is her first book. You can find her at