If you’re superstitious like many Chinese, you’ll know that, around this time of year, ghosts are said to return to the land of the living. It’s a Chinese custom that’s always honoured every seventh month of the Lunar Calendar, and it’s one that most Singaporeans are courteous enough to take note of. After all, you would want to offend a ghost, do you?
Unlike Halloween, the Hungry Ghost Festival isn’t fun and games, at all. It is believed that spirits return from the gates of Hell to feast, which is why there are numerous ceremonies and concerts around the island to placate them.
But there’s no need to get creeped out; these spirits are generally harmless. Here are some well-known “facts” to take note of that won’t upset the dead and the living.
1. Don’t make any major changes to your home
This includes shifting furniture around, and especially making renovations to your home during this period. It is believed that this might disturb any residing spirits.
2. Don’t kill any moths
Have you ever seen a moth at a funeral? Chinese believe that spirits can be reincarnated as animals, especially moths. So if you see any of these winged creatures crashing your home, nudge it out gently. It’s just saying hello.
3. Don’t go snooping around where you aren’t supposed to
If there’s one thing horror movies have taught us, it’s not to go to creepy places by yourself. Sure, Singapore is a safe place, but why tempt the spirits during the most ‘haunted’ season of the year?
4. Don’t sit in the front row of Getai performances
Aside from food, ghosts love a good show too, or so the Chinese believe. Chinese entertain these spirits through Getai, over-the-top performances that often involve traditional song, theatre, and puppetry. Don’t be surprised if you stumble upon a Chinese opera popping up in your neighbourhood.
Oh, and while performances such as these are free, it’s best if you don’t plant yourselves in the front row of seats. Who do you think they’re reserved for?
5. Don’t be alarmed by friendly fires
Unless it’s a building on fire (that’s not made of paper), it’s often someone burning offerings for their ancestors. These offerings usually take the form of paper money; you’ll see plenty of ash fluttering about your neighbourhood. The smell and smoke may get to you so you would want to shut your windows and turn up the aircon.
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The Hungry Ghost Festival is observed island-wide every year – from 11 August to 9 September in 2018.