We are in the middle of the Hungry Ghost month (14 Aug – 12 Sept 2015) with festivities reaching a high on Hungry Ghost Day on 28 August – the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Even in super-modern Singapore you can see the traditional offerings of fruit and incense everywhere, not just in the temples. Remains of small fires are testimony to the paper items, eg false paper money, paper cars, houses, TVs, jewellery or other fine goods – even servants (!) were burnt to please the ghosts. Large tents are set up in open fields where local communities celebrate elaborate dinners and enjoy a variety of performances. Note that the front row of seats will be left empty for the spirits!
A lot of the smaller shops in Singapore are closed during the festival as they want to leave the streets open for the ghosts. You will also find many taxi drivers finishing their shift before sunset to allow them enough time to get home before darkness sets in.
During Hungry Ghost Month, ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased ancestors, are allowed to come back to earth to visit their living relatives. Whilst most of these spirits are good-natured, some of them are stuck in the “Bardo”, a restless in-between state, where they still try to find a new body to be re-born into. Such spirits might cause you harm if your own energy is low or depleted.
The Chinese believe that it is wise to take extra care this month, especially in the dark hours of the night. It is also important to protect your home as you do not wish to attract any unwanted spirits from the underworld. Make sure your house is brightly lit, play music, and burn lots of incense! Wearing bright yang colours and carrying protective amulets is also recommended.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts for the Hungry Ghost month:
- Do NOT move house, get married, or open a new business this month.
- AVOID swimming as it is said that drowned evil ghosts might try to pull you down and drown you in order for their re-birth.
- Do NOT hang clothes outside at night.
- Do NOT let children, teenagers and young adults go out alone at night as they are particularly susceptible to spirit possession.
- AVOID campsites, nature trails and jungle ventures as ghosts love to inhabit such spots, increasing the chances of you suffering injuries or spirit possession.
- BE VERY CAREFUL when driving, no speeding and avoid accidents!
If you see any food offerings, incense, or burnt items on the roadside or other public places, please treat them with respect and send some loving thoughts to the homeless souls and your own ancestors.
24 August 2015