Every year on the 7th month of the lunar calendar, the hungry ghost festival is celebrated by people of the Taoist and Buddhist religions. It is a time when the spirits of the underworld are released from their torment in hell. They then roam the Earth to find food, entertainment and any unsuspecting victims to bring down to hell for a chance at reincarnation. As such, families in Singapore of the Buddhist and Taoist religions burn many offerings during the hungry ghost festival to appease the appetite of the hungry ghosts.
Other than burning offerings, there are other superstitions and beliefs that Singaporeans abide by during the festival period to avoid unnecessary attention from the ghosts. But in case you forget, or are new to the culture, here’s a quick list of things that you shouldn’t do during the hungry ghost festival, other than not visiting haunted places in Singapore.
1. Don’t stay out late
It’s believed that ghosts roam the streets after sunset. That is why it is advised that people avoid night activities during the hungry ghost festival. But if you HAVE to stay out late, have a friend for company. Ghosts are said to prey on unsuspecting victims that travel alone at night.
2. Don’t open an umbrella indoors or pick up any stray umbrellas
Get yourself a good personal umbrella for when it rains cats and dogs during the hungry ghost festival. Why? Because it is believed that wandering ghosts may ‘seek shelter’ in any unused umbrellas. Don’t even open an umbrella indoors! You might never know when you would release a ghost in your home!
3. Don’t turn your head if someone taps your shoulder or calls your name
A belief in Chinese culture is that everyone has a ‘spiritual protective flame’ on each shoulder. However, the flames are extinguished whenever you turn your head around. That is why evil ghosts are said to trick humans by calling their name or ‘tapping’ their shoulder when they are alone. Naturally, anyone will turn their head – making them vulnerable to hungry ghosts.
4. Avoid wearing red
If you love the colour red, we have bad news for you. The hungry ghosts are said to be attracted to the colour red! Unless you want to be a prime target for mischievous ghosts, avoid red clothing during this time.
5. Don’t take night selfies
Never take a night selfie alone during the hungry ghost festival! If you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough, you might find an extra ‘person’ in your selfies! [heh] During the festival period, it’s probably best to keep the selfies to the day time.
6. NEVER sit in the front row of Getai concerts
Getai shows are organised around various neighbourhoods during the hungry ghost festival. It’s a concert that is meant to entertain wandering ghosts. However, the front row is usually reserved for ghosts; even though it is visibly empty. So you might want to pass on the front row seats.
7. Avoid swimming, especially at night
Arm yourself with an arsenal of swimming floats during the hungry ghost festival, or don’t even swim at all! There is a belief that ghosts linger in the water and they may try to drown you for a chance at reincarnation.
8. Don’t sing at night along the streets
Ghosts don’t have to attend Getai performances if you start singing on the way home. That’s right, wandering ghosts may be attracted to your singing or whistling while you’re alone! Pro tip: If the music bug hits you, just plug in a set of earphones and take a silent stroll.
9. Don’t hang wind chimes at home
You should take down any wind chimes around the home while the hungry ghost festival is ongoing. The high-pitched noises of the wind chimes are said to attract the attention of wandering ghosts. Unless you want some ‘special attention’, it’s best to try other types of home decor for the time being.
10. Don’t kill any insects
There is a Chinese belief that certain insects represent the presence of our departed loved ones. Killing them might chase them away or even hurt them. If you find any unusual insects or moths, leave them alone or try to catch them for a safe release. It’s a good way to appease the spirit that may be present.
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