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The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated during the 7th month of the Chinese calendar. It also falls at the same time as a full moon, the new season, the fall harvest, the peak of monastic ascerticism, the rebirth of ancestors, and the assembly of the local community. According to tradition, during this month, the gates of hell are opened up and the hungry ghosts are free to roam the earth where they seek food and entertainment. These ghosts are believed to be ancestors of those who have forgotten to pay tribute to them after they died. They have long thin necks because they have not been fed by their families. Tradition states that families should offer prayers to their deceased relatives and burn "hell money". It is believed that "hell money" is a valid currency in the underworld and helps ghosts to live comfortably in the afterlife. People also burn other forms of joss paper such as paper houses, cars and televisions to please the ghosts.
Families also pay tribute to other unknown wandering ghosts so that these homeless souls do not intrude on their lives and bring misfortune. A big feast is held for the ghosts on the 15th day of the 7th month, where people bring samples of food and place them on the offering table to please the ghosts and ward off bad luck.
Mu Lian on the other hand was a kind soul. He was a gentle person and always willing to help anybody who was in need. One day he decided to become a monk and this did not please his mother. She scowled at him for being such a useless son; she wanted him to go out and work to earn more money for her. Wealth and materialistic things meant more to her than anything else.