Opening the Gates of Hell

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It is that time of year again for the Gates of Hell to open so the souls of the dead can once again roam the earth. If you are in Singapore at this time of the year you will come across food and other offerings in the street for example mandarins, roasted pig, bowls of rice and especially made Chinese cake.  It is considered very bad luck (and disrespectful) if you happen to be on your way home from a nightclub, cannot find a McDonalds and decide to stop by thinking it is a good place for a free snack.

You will also come across Getai in the streets which are live stage performances aimed at entertaining the ghosts. Everyone is welcome to watch the show but do not sit in the front row seats which are reserved for guest ‘spirits’.

There are a few other taboos for the Hungry Ghost Festival including:

  • Avoid swimming as those who previously drowned during their life might cause you to drown so they can be reborn.

  • Children and young adults should be home early and not wander around alone at night as wandering ghosts can easily possess children.

  • Avoid moving into new homes, any home renovation or opening a new businesses as it is considered inauspicious and bad luck.

  • Do not pick up anything including the money offered in the joss bins if found on the street and never bring it home.

  • Do not be sad, weak or emotional as this invites ghosts to possess and harm you.

  • If you wish to address the ghosts, do not call them ‘ghost’ – call them ‘good brother’ or ‘uncle’.

  • Do not whistle after sunset as this will attract the attention of ghosts who will bring you bad luck … I guess that’s if they don’t particularly like the tune.

  • And do not make negative comments or jokes about the offerings, Getai or beliefs of the Hungry Ghost Festival which I only learned a little too late but no harm has come to me … yet.

hungry ghosts

3 responses »

  1. Thanks, Leigh, for the warning about the Hungry Ghosts Festival. I could never to attend one. While I could avoid taking a front-row seat, eating the food, or swimming, there would always come a moment when I was “sad, weak or emotional.” I’d be possessed right then and there. I’m just wondering: Does somebody eventually eat the food?

  2. I think some changes should be made in this festival. The ghosts should be given a deadline, so to speak, to show up and claim their food. After that moment, when the food is at perfection, the participants in the festival sit down and eat.

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