It’s that time of year again when you need to be careful where you step. Yup, Hungry Ghost Festival is here. This year’s Hungry Ghost Festival falls on Sep 2 in 2020, the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. The celebrations and rituals begin at the start of the seventh month, Aug 19, and last until the lunar month’s end, Sep 17.
Taoists and Buddhists in Singapore believe that gates of Heaven and Hell open during the Hungry Ghost Festival, allowing the deceased to enter the realm of the living. People usually burn joss paper as offerings to their deceased ancestors. I’m sure you’ve also seen fancy items such as luxury cars and bungalows as well.
Hungry Ghost Festival is also when getai performances are held. In the pre-COVID-19 days, you’d see makeshift stages pop up all over the heartlands with performers in sequins belting out Hokkien tunes. Now, the stage has shifted online, with views for popular getai singers even hitting a million.
From Aug 19 to Sep 16, seventh month prayer services with up to 50 people will be authorised. Burning of incense and joss paper will be allowed, but singing and live performances such as getai will unfortunately not be allowed to take place this year.
Do’s and don’ts during the Hungry Ghost Festival
Ensure your ancestors a better afterlife by all means, but not at the expense of the living! For non-believers, try not to wreck other people’s offerings to their deceased relatives.
Here are some good practices to observe during the Hungry Ghost Festival:
- Use the bins provided by the town council to burn your offerings
- Use the burner cover to prevent ash from flying everywhere
- Don’t burn on the pedestrian path, pavement or turf
- Do not disturb or step on offerings, incense, candles or ash you might come across
- Do not step into any white circles drawn on the pavement
If you or a family member are planning to buy joss paper to burn this Hungry Ghost Festival, you might be pleased to know that many shops now accept online orders in order to minimise physical contact during the Covid-19 pandemic.