Aug 1 marks the first day of The Hungry Ghost Festival aka the seventh month of the lunar calendar.
Based on Chinese beliefs this is when the gates of hell open and spirits get to roam the land of the living for an entire month.
The Hungry Ghost Festival runs from Aug 1 to Aug 29 this year.
A few things associated with the Seventh Month includes spirits, burning offerings, getais and our parents and grandparents reminding us about the superstitions during this month.
Getai performers Liu Lingling, Marcus Chin, singer-host Desmond Ng (from AL4HA band) and twin sisters Thien Si Si and Jia Jia (of The Shining Sisters) were interviewed by 8days.sg about the do’s and don’ts during this Seventh Month.
- Don’t talk nonsense
It’s advisable not to spout nonsense during this month when spirits are lingering everywhere.
“The most important thing is not to talk rubbish!” Marcus, 65, emphasises. “If you say things you don’t mean, our ‘good brothers’ will hear it and grant your wish.
If you are feeling down, don’t ever say you want to jump down the building, because somehow, you will get pushed down from a high place.
I know of singers who ran their mouth during the seventh month and for some inexplicable reason, they fell from the stage during their performance. Thankfully I haven’t experienced this myself yet,” the host and actor says.
2. Ignore strange, rotting, or floral smells
Si Si of The Shining Sisters said that if you come across strange, rotting or floral scents out of the blue or at places you wouldn’t normally expect them, keep quiet.
“Don’t say anything even when you smell something weird. If something smells awful like rotting, or sweet-smelling like flowers, just don’t ask any questions.
Also, don’t follow the smell. Personally, we’ve smelled weird things before, but we’d keep quiet. Once, (getai duo) Mingzhu Sisters accidentally blurted out that the area around the stage stank. During their segment, one of them passed out on stage.”
Lingling, 55, has a similar story: “There was once a singer complained that the getai area was really smelly. She went into a seizure and was admitted to hospital. However, the doctor could not find anything wrong. It was only when her mum went to pray at the temple and burned some incense near the stage did she recover.”
3. Watch your step, and avoid stomping on offerings.
“When we were younger, my sister accidentally stepped on some offerings,” Si Si said.
“We apologised briefly before walking off because we were late for school. When we got home that night, both of us had high fever. It persisted until my mum went to the temple to pray, and we recovered.”
4. Once you’ve taken out and burned your offerings, don’t keep them back again.
“It’s like a form of taunting and spirits see it as a sign of disrespect. I know of people who’ve done that and met with accidents later on,” reveals Lingling.
5. Don’t go swimming
“Swimming for me is a no-no. Spirits of drowning victims will be looking to claim their next target during the month.
If you swim, something will pull your leg down. It’s better to be safe than sorry. I won’t take the chance because I don’t swim very well either,” Lingling says.
She’s not the only one who’s pantang about this — Si Si admits she doesn’t go swimming or even to the beach during Seventh Month.
6. Pray before every performance
“Getai singers believe that we have to pray before every gig, otherwise the show won’t go smoothly. The first show is the most important, so praying is a must.
Some singers even bring their own incense. We strictly follow the rules, because bad things have happened to people we know. Once, our senior forgot to pray and he fainted on stage. This is not the first time it has happened, so we will not take chances,” says Si Si.
7. Don’t leave clothes hanging to dry overnight
“I realise that [the older folk] are quite particular about keeping clothes before nightfall [during this period]. I always hear them talking about it, and they say that [if you leave it outside], it attracts bad aura,” explains Desmond, 31.
“I’m guessing it’s because it’s like asking the spirits to follow you? It’s something that I’ve been doing since young, so maybe I’m just used to it.”
8. Respect the spirits
“Most importantly, don’t say things that are disrespectful to the ghosts. There are spirits everywhere who can hear you, and you will get into trouble. As long as you respect them, they won’t come after you,” Lingling warns.
Marcus shared that a getai friend was involved in a car accident shortly after saying disrespectful things about spirits. When probed further, Marcus would only mention that his friend has already passed on. What happens if you think you’ve done any of the above or something else that may have offended the spirits? Lingling and Si Si advise going to a temple to apologise.
9. For kiasu folks, do a Desmond and cover all ground
The AL4HA frontman has adhered to these do’s and don’ts for most of his life, even though he doesn’t always get why these superstitions are observed. “I don’t really understand, but I will just follow all of it,” he admits.