Ullambana, or the Ghost Festival, is the most popular festival celebrated by Buddhists in different countries including China, Japan, India, Thailand, Malaysia and others. On this day, it is believed that the "Gates of the Hell" are opened and the dead souls pay visit to their loved ones. During this festival, offerings are made to the spirits of the dead and to the hungry ghosts, in order to bring good fortune and luck. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. Ullambana is a festival of liberation, which advocates and reinforces the concept of filial piety. The word ‘Ullambana' translates into ‘deliverance from suffering', and specifically refers to the salvation that is granted to tormented souls in hell.
According to the Buddhist legend, the observance of this festival is based on the story of Maudgalyayana (Moginlin or Mogganalla, as per Oriental legends) and his mother. On this day, Buddhists offer prayers both to their departed forefathers and to their living parents and elders. It is generally believed that one who performs a good deed accumulates spiritual merit. It is considered an even more pious act when the merit earned is shared with departed souls. This act helps the dead to be reborn in good realms and alleviate his/her suffering. Ullambana is celebrated by Buddhists all over the world. Though there are slight variations in certain customs and beliefs in different countries, the fundamental rituals remain essentially the same.
Besides offering prayers to the souls of deceased ancestors and welfare of their parents, people carry offerings, such as food, medicine and clothes, for monks and nuns in monasteries. In China and Taiwan, Ullambana has absorbed the traditional Ghost Festival, which has the similar goal of praying for the welfare of departed souls. The two festivals are together celebrated as Chung Yuan Putu, translated as "Mid-origin Passage to Universal Salvation". On this day, an offering of meat, together with a prodigious table of wine is made to one's ancestors and ghosts. The festival is known as Ching Ming Jie in Singapore, O-Bon in Japan and Vu Lan in Vietnam. The date of Ullambana depends on the calendar that is followed, and varies slightly in different parts of the world.