• Joie Lesin

It's Time to Feed Hungry Ghosts

I have always been intrigued by ghosts. I cannot remember exactly where my fascination began but I do remember ordering books about them from the Scholastic catalog my school would send home with us. I’d read about the Gray Ladies, Banshees, and famous haunted houses. I wish I still had these!

A one-act play I wrote in high school for my sophomore English class featured the ghost of a father who came back to stop a mother and daughter from fighting. Incidentally, I received and A++ for this play. The following year, I started writing the story that would eventually become The Passenger.


Of course, the whole premise for the story began with a ghost. I’ll talk more about this in a later post.


So, it’s no wonder that I am so fascinated with All Hallows’ Eve and the many Festivals of the Dead from around the world. Each festival honors the dead in some way. Be it to wear masks to confuse and distract the spirits as not to follow a person home on the night. This is when the veil between this and the spirit world is at its thinnest, a time feed the hungry ghosts. Those honoring them would feed them and ask them to leave and not return until the following year.

The Korean celebration, Chuseok, is one that I find particularly interesting. (Perhaps this could be because my husband is half Korean.) It's often referred to as Korean Thanksgiving Day. It occurs on the 15th day of the eighth lunar calendar month, which is around September or October. As with festivals of the dead in other countries, Chuseok is centered on food and offering food to the spirits of the departed.


Would it be safe to assume that the Korean food selection for departed loved ones during Chuseok has likely evolved over the years from traditional fare. Food such as bulgogi, gimbap, and kimchi jjigae to updated dishes one might find at a restaurant like Young Joni? (a favorite Korean restaurant of mine in Minneapolis. Kimchi pizza anyone?)


They also visit cemeteries to clean the gravesites/tombs of the departed. It’s not much of a stretch to say that this is the Korean version of the Mexican holiday, “el Día de los Muertos.” Maybe an alternate name for “Chuseok” should be “Jug-Eum-Ui Nal”? (I decided to dazzle you with my adeptness at using Google Translate 😊.)


The common thread that runs through these festivals is that that the world of the living is honoring the existence of the spirits of the dead. Energy of one form converts to another form of energy, and the energy (i.e., souls of the departed) merely exist in a spiritual annex of our physical world.


I suppose this is why I write ghost stories. It's my way of paying tribute to my characters like Paolo Clemente in The Passenger. It's a gift to be able to honor his spirit by sharing his story with readers.


Until next time... what Halloween festival are you most intrigued with?




About the Author

Thanks to a family with a grand imagination and a love for books of all kinds, Joie learned to value a heartfelt story. Early on she realized writing and storytelling were as essential to her as oxygen. She recorded her first story at six and finished her first novel at twelve. The Passenger is Joie’s first published novel.