This is what Ghost Month sounds like in the US. It was recorded in our backyard last year for the soundtrack of our movie Going Home.
We began observing Ghost Month in 2015 by launching this blog and creating compelling content to make it uniquely “us.”
We registered the domain name hungryghostfestival.us with the .us extension, mostly because the .com extension was unavailable.
But, .us also served the purpose of distinguishing us here in Houston, Texas, USA from the rest of the world where Ghost Month is traditionally celebrated.
Initially, we thought we would find pockets of people around Houston celebrating Ghost Month and learn more about the traditions through local interactions.
Most Asian grocery stores in town carry joss paper and joss sticks, even if it’s only a small selection. Larger stores carry a wide variety of supplies including joss burners and the ever evolving paper offerings.
What we discovered was that there are people buying these items, but there are not public displays of the rituals.
The dramatic scenes of people burning bonfires of joss paper so commonly shown in photos of Ghost Month do not exist here in Houston.
Nor do such photos exist from other places across the United States. Roughly 5.6% of the American population is of Asian decent. Even though Ghost Month is not observed in all Asian cultures, it seems like Hungry Ghost Festivals in the United States would be more prevalent than they appear to be.
I believe this is due in part to the highly superstitious nature of the observance and the tendency to conceal such beliefs in the context of the American norm. After all, American superstitions about ghosts are much more about entertainment than anything spiritual.
The American block buster movie Ghost Busters, a story about capturing ghosts, is a far cry from the street operas that reserve the front seats for the ghosts in the audience.
Americans do not like to be called superstitious.
As a result, I believe that Ghost Month here in Houston, and probably all across the United States, happens not out in the open, in the streets, but in the privacy of one’s home, in one’s backyard.
This is how we are celebrate Ghost Month, in our backyard.
This made me realize that we came to the Hungry Ghost Festival not because we were looking for something new and different to celebrate, but because of who we are. It turns out to be a very personal thing. It is what makes us… us.
This makes our .us domain extension even more meaningful.
Because hungryghostfesitval.us is first and foremost – about US.