Hungry Ghost Festival In Singapore
- SWATHI RAMASWAMY
- UPDATED May 09, 2018
- 3 Views
The Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional festival of the Chinese that has spread all over South East Asia. It is a day when the hungry spirits of hell come to the mortal world in search for food.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is a major festival of Singapore. Singapore is an ambitious city where life hardly comes to a standstill with ever expanding technology and a new step towards the future. However, the city does not forget the past at least once a year on the occasion of the Hungry Ghost Festival. On the full moon of the seventh lunar month according to the Chinese calendar, many countries of South-east Asia, including Singapore, lay out food to satiate the hunger of their deceased family members who get to escape Hell for this one time.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is originally a Chinese Festival where it is believed that the Gates of Hell are opened on the full moon of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar. On this day, the spirit that had spent an eternity in Hell visits his/her family, hungry for food. The families are expected to lay down food to satiate the hunger of their deceased and also to make their own afterlives better. People generally lay out sumptuous food, paper, money, candles etc. to honour their dead. These earthly things of the deceased are spread out and then burnt so that the spirits can take them to their afterlife and use them as they did in their lifetime.
The concept of the Hungry Ghost Festival originated from the Mahayana Buddhists but later spread in many South-Asian countries. It is believed that the hungry ghost has a large skeleton-like figure, a lengthy neck and a very tiny mouth. The purpose of the small mouth is to restrict the hunger of the ghost. These ghosts are said to be the spirits of those who died unnaturally or without being satisfied with life. The wise Chinese tradition also indicates that drug addiction can turn one in a hungry ghost even while alive.
In Singapore, this festival is mainly celebrated in the Chinese communities. You can head to Chinatown if you really want to get to the core of the festival.
Some of the major events that you will witness in Singapore during this time are:
A family meal is the very essence of the Hungry Ghost festival. Although by “family” I mean the one that extends to the Lower Realm too. The tradition on the Hungry Ghost festival is to spread out sumptuous food for those deceased souls that have escaped hell for one day. It is said that these ghosts are eternally hungry and that they may wreak havoc if not kept occupied with food. Therefore, most families prepare an elaborate rice meal on this occasion. An incense stick is left burning near the table. When the incense stick has burnt through, the spirit is supposed to have finished eating. The family members sit down to enjoy the meal after their ghastly visitor has left.
Some food is also left out for the ghosts that roam the streets randomly.
These are typical of the Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore. These tents are hubs of activity where large dinners and concerts are organised. You can enjoy these dinners with your family and friends while witnessing the Chinese Opera and many other events like stand-up comedy, concerts etc. These tents are typically places to enjoy the festivities yourself along with your friends and family.
1. Apart from the designated tents, you can find traces of the festival in every nook and corner of the city. The most common of these traces being the plates of food set out on the street for the hungry wandering spirits.
2. The modern city of Singapore is not without its own superstitions when it comes to the ghastly week. Some of them are:
3. Swimming is believed to be dangerous during this period as the drowned spirits might drag you down.
4. No important activity like marriage or starting a new business etc. should be performed during this period as the week is considered to be inauspicious.
5. Clothes should not be hung out at night.
6. Singing or whistling might attract spirits.
7. Do not hang clothes outside at night.
8. Red attracts spirits.
9. Do not pick up coins from the road.
Thus, the Hungry Ghost Festival is one of the most celebrated festivals of Singapore. Though slightly paranormal, it has deep-rooted religious and cultural importance not only in the Chinese community but all of Singapore.