The 'Hungry Ghost Festival' (中元節 / 中元节 / Tết Trung Nguyên), a Chinese holiday not officially observed here in Cambodia but still kept amongst the country's Chinese, Chinese-Khmer and Vietnamese communities. My neighbors here in Phnom Penh were burning joss paper on the sidewalk several times that day and had me over to take a few photos for them.
Celebrated on the 15th day (half-moon) of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the Hungry Ghost Festival is the Chinese version of the Khmer P'chum Benh, that time of year the gates of the underworld are opened and the spirits released to roam the Earth, if only briefly. During this period the living (at least the Chinese and Vietnamese ones) make offerings to these souls at the pagoda and at home, both to aid and appease their ancestors, as well as other loosened spirits.
In one of the most apparent manifestations of the festival, believers burn joss paper and place offerings to the spirits on tables and blankets in front of their homes - on the sidewalk, the balcony, porch or just inside the open gates.
The spread of offerings is often centered on a roasted red pig, candles and burning incense, and may include things such as rice, sugar, fruit, drinks, candy, cigarettes, snacks, etc. Apparently the afterworld is similar to this one and the idea is to provide for the welfare of the deceased to help ensure a comfortable afterlife. Providing for their financial needs, joss paper, including 'ghost money' is burned, the process sending it to the dead for use as ghostly tender.
Traditionally, joss paper offerings were gold and silver colored paper and later stylized Chinese currency ('ghost money.') It could also include paper representations of clothing, fabric, houses and other practicalities. But times change. As the neighbor showed me the various joss offerings he was preparing for the fire I discovered that 21st century ghosts get to enjoy the niceties of modern consumerism and even the trappings of conspicuous consumption,
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