This is something that slips past the Western viewers- it looks like it’s reaching out for Chihiro, in a malicious way, to the Western viewers. It’s what I thought growing up.
However, now, that I know that it’s a way of signalling for someone to ‘Come here!’ in Japan, the scene takes on a whole new meaning.
That spirit knows that if Chihiro doesn’t eat the food, she will disappear. And it knows if it offers the food, she cannot be cursed as a gluttonous pig because it wouldn’t have been stolen.
Just a unique take when you have all of the context.
And also, the red lanterns spell out ‘おいで’ which translates to “Come here” or “Come in” :)
"Oh, there you are! I was looking for you everywhere.”
"Even if everyone calls you a liar, I’m on your side.”
Someone once said “That place is engulfed in the darkness. However, that does in no way that there was never any light.”