This friend of mine [noted as T] shared a taboo her grandmother warned her about.
T: My grandmother used to warn me, never answer anyone who’s calling your name or tapping on your shoulder on the mid day of July, no matter how much it sounds like someone you know, you have to make sure you actually see that person before you answer them or turn back.
Me: Why? What would happen if I answered as soon as I heard my name?
T: Well, the mid day of July in lunar calendar is actually a ghosts’ day. On this day, all the ghosts in the netherworld are given a “holiday” and are allowed to walk on earth. So when you hear someone’s calling your name, it might not be actually a real person but you know, a ghost. Once you answer the ghost, it will take you to the netherworld with it. That’s what my grandma told me. Since I could never keep track of the lunar calendar though, I would just become extra cautious around July and August.
Me: Are there other taboos on this day your grandma told you?
T: I can’t remember much, mostly are the things like “don’t go near the water body because the drowned spirit will drown you” kind of thing… Oh, there’s another. You should never stick your chopsticks in a bowl of rice when you’re eating or whatever. That would look a lot like offering libation, so the spirits will think you want to share food with them and they will come.
Mid July sounds a lot like Halloween, except that now Halloween has become a holiday for entertainment, but Mid July still maintained it’s scary nature. China has several holidays for the dead, the most important one is Qingming festival. On this day, people would go to clean up the tombs of those who passed away, and offer libation. On Qingming Festival, it’s for people who are alive to cherish the memory of those who are dead; on Mid July, it’s more focused on those who are dead, and thus is scarier and there’re more taboos on this day.