In Chinese folk legend, the seventh lunar month is the Ghost Month. It is said that every year on the ﬁrst day of the seventh lunar month, the gate of hell will be wide open and the ghosts will come out until the gate is closed on the 30th day of the month. For the safety of both ghosts and human beings, China has the tradition of worshipping the dead in lunar July since ancient times. In folk China, people would offer sacriﬁces on the ﬁrst, second, ﬁfteenth and last day of the Ghost Month. There are many taboos in the Ghost Month. For example, do not wear the clothes with your name, do not pat other people on the shoulder, do not whistle, children and senior citizens should not go out at night.
Most people in ancient China believed in ghosts and gods. Legend has it that anyone who dies normally could reincarnate while those who are guilty or die accidentally would become ghosts wandering in the mortal world. Some evil spirits even seize the opportunity to disturb the living souls, causing their death in di-sasters and accidents. As a result, people who die unexpectedly during this period are regarded “have been taken away by ghosts”.
People believe that holding sacriﬁce ceremony for these spirits would help them to escape from hell at an early date and prevent them from disturbing the living beings. Therefore, Chinese people would hold sacriﬁce ceremony and burn money at the roadside in the month to worship the ghosts, which become the customs like “setting lanterns” and “worshipping good brothers”.
Since the sacriﬁce ceremony has the meaning of praying for safety, Chinese people also invite theatrical troupes to play for gods and entertain guests at open-air banquets in addition to worshipping the “good brothers” with substantial offerings at the Ghost Festival, also Zhongyuan Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. Nowadays, China encourages frugality; the folk customs are improved and the sacriﬁce ceremony is simpliﬁed.
Ancient Chinese people believed natural and man-made di-sasters were frequent in the 7th lunar month, during which they had fears. Hence, the cultural custom of avoid anything in this month is formed. In modern society, many taboos fail to stand the test of time but some are still unexplainable with science.
August, aka the 7th lunar month, is widely believed to be when the gates of hell open for the Hungry Ghost Festival.
Some believe that all manner of spooky spooks & spirits are set free to roam in the human realm for a month.
That explains why some Singaporeans will be observing various superstitions, beliefs and rituals from 1 – 29 Aug this year.
Here’s a quick introduction to them, so you don’t unintentionally offend any spirits — or concerned grandparents for that matter.
1.Don’t stab your chopsticks into a bowl of rice
Hungry ghosts may think your food is an offering to them, if you stick your chopsticks vertically into your bowl of rice.
Spirits apparently think this set-up resembles joss sticks, and may possess the person behind the meal while attempting to eat it.
2.Don’t open your umbrella inside the house
Using your umbrella at night may invite spirits to take shelter under them with you.
Upon reaching home, you shouldn’t open your umbrella within your house as some believe that this may bring the spirits into your home.
3.Don’t leave your front door open all night
Besides common-sense reasons like attracting burglars, some believe that leaving the front door of a home or ofﬁce open all night may invite negative energy into your premises.
4.Never kill rare insects that visit your house
You’ve probably heard of this superstition before, especially from the older generation.
Moths, grasshoppers & butterﬂies may be a manifestation of your ancestors paying a visit during the seventh month.
So do be reminded not to kill any less common insects that visit your house.
5.No peeing on trees
Though the urge may come suddenly to you, peeing in public areas is a crime in Singapore, with a maximum ﬁne of $1,000.
Worse still, the act may offend spirits lurking in the area, so consider yourself duly warned.
6.Avoid swimming at night If you enjoy taking a dip at night, you may want to schedule your daily swim at little earlier during this month.
Some believe that vengeful ghosts who have drowned in the past may pull or drag you underwater to meet the same fate.
7.Don’t sit in the front row
Stages will be set up for ‘getai’ performances to entertain our ‘brothers & sisters’ from the other realm.
As they are considered the VIP guests, do not occupy the front row seats. It is believed that people with ‘low luck’ who sit in these seats, may risk getting possessed by the opera-loving spirits.
8.Don’t kick offerings to hungry ghosts
If you spy stray iced gem biscuits, or brown steamed cakes and sweets with joss sticks along our streets, please do not disturb them.
These are offerings meant to appease the hungry spirits.
9.Avoid playing games that involve summoning spirits for fun
In the seventh month, people believe that spirits are more powerful.
Thus, when attempting to call upon ghosts to do your bidding, you risk enticing malevolent ghosts to play along.
10.Don’t respond when someone calls your name from behind
If you’re wandering around at night alone, do not respond when someone calls your name from behind.
The belief is that you may encounter a spirit instead of a regular human.
11.Try not to gossip about ghosts
Idle gossip or bragging that you aren’t afraid of any ghosts, may offend wandering spirits.
Your bravado may even challenge them to make an appearance, to ‘put you in your place’.
12.Avoid getting married & moving house
The seventh lunar month is widely considered an inauspicious period to get married or move to a new house.
As spirits are believed to be wandering around, believers think engaging in festivities may invite them to ‘join in’, even if they’re not welcome.
That said, though these beliefs should be taken with a pinch of salt, consider yourself wiser to the ways of our older generation.