Today is the festival for honouring your ancestors ...
Today is the variously known 中元节，鬼节习俗，七月半
A notice went up in our 小区 a few days ago part of which said:
禁正在楼道，户内焚烧祭祖物品，切勿靠边车辆，绿化带，易燃易爆物品等地方祭祖焚烧，以避免由此引发意外事故。I haven't noticed any unusual fires so our 尊敬的业主/住户 zūnjìngdeyèzhǔ/zhùhù (respected owners and residents) must have taken notice and behaved accordingly.
That's interesting - are you saying that they were likely related to the festival? I am guessing it was not cold in Tianjin at this time of year!? I have not seen this kind of thing. I'm wondering whether this festival gets over-shadowed by the Tomb-sweeping Day, another festival to honour the ancestors when people often travel to their home town.
Hi Bodawei, it was definitely for the ghost festival (at least according to one of the locals we spoke to). But yes, I agree that in my experience the tomb sweeping festival is a bigger festival, at least down in SH.