Taiwan is recently being promoted as a province, or country, that is rich in culture and tradition. The island is laden with different festivals highlighted with lanterns, fireworks, and revelry.
One of the most popular festivals in Taiwan is the Mid-Summer Ghost Festival, which culminates on the 15th night of the seventh lunar month, a day that has been considered by the Chinese when spirits of deceased ancestors come out of the underworld and join the living.
Every city in Taiwan celebrates the Mid-Summer Ghost Festival, but a few of them have been the top crowd-getters. One of them is the celebration being held in Keelung, located north of capital city Taipei, where the second largest seaport is also located.
The Keelung Ghost Festival is among the oldest in Taiwan, dating back to 1851 after bitter clashes between rivaling clans, which claimed many lives before mediators stepped in.
The Ghost Festival became their offering to the dead so they would not suffer in the afterlife, as well as a means of building social harmony. At first, the Keelung Ghost Festival was hosted alternately by a single clan belonging to a family association. Nowadays, the festival is being sponsored by up to 15 different associations, with different clans outdoing one another in order to put up a better spectacle.
The Mid-Summer Ghost Festival begins on the first day of the seventh lunar month by opening the tower gate of the "Old Venerable" Temple.
On the 12th day, lamps on the Main Altar are lit, resulting to a spectacular multi-colored spectacle on every corner of the city. Procession of dipper lanterns is held on the 13th day, followed by a parade that water lanterns a day after.
On the 15th day, water lanterns are officially released and sacrificial rites to deliver the ghosts are performed both in public and private. A ceremonial dance is also performed to welcome the deity Chung Kwei in order to awe the ghosts and keep them from committing mischief. The tower gate closes on the first day of the eighth lunar month, officially ending the festival.
The Ghost Festival of Keelung City is a reflection of Taiwan’s rich cultural history that is very much alive today. If you are interested in celebrating Keelung’s Ghost Festival, come to Taiwan on September 3, 2009, when the 15th night of the seventh lunar month occurs.