Belief of Lunar 7th Month
From the traditions of Taoism, it is believed that spirits are granted with permission to come out from the netherworld on every lunar 7th month to accept offerings from the living. This is why you will always see people praying and burning joss items along the road, outside their house and around your void deck area. But have you thought before why spirits are granted with such permission to roam the living world on this specific month?
In the cycle of life from the point of Taoism, after a human passed on, the soul continues to live in the other world as spirits, some named them as ghost. Those with family will have their descendants to pray and offer to them. But there are always some who passed on lonely, without any family or descendants. These souls will remain lonely in netherworld without offerings nor necessities. There is also another group of souls who had been punished severely for their sinful acts committed while they were still alive. Punishment includes torture, hunger and suffering with nothing in hell and these punishments are everlasting. As an act of kindness towards these groups of lonely or punished souls, permission is granted to them coming to the living world only on every lunar 7th month to accept offerings from the livings.
The livings, beside doing prayers and offerings in the lunar 7th month, many will also perform rituals to chao du (salvage) those lonely, pitiful or sinful souls. This is done hopefully to lighten their sins and sufferings, sending them for reincarnation which is a way to stop their everlasting sufferings.
Buddhism has the similar concept for lunar 7th month as a month to perform salvage for those sinful or wandering souls. Buddhists do this by chanting sutra for them and hoping to relieve them from eternal sufferings in hell.