What is Hungry Ghost Festival?
The Hungry Ghost Festival is known as 中元节 in Chinese (or Zhong Yuan Festival) and is celebrated during the seventh month of the lunar calendar.
It is believed that the gates of the underworld will open during the first day of the seventh lunar month for the ‘hungry ghosts’ to roam around and will be fully opened during the 15th day. The gates will be closed on the last day of the seventh lunar month, which is the 30th.
This festival is widely observed among Chinese communities in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. However, the rituals and celebrations involved may vary depending on the local cultural beliefs.
When is Hungry Ghost Festival in 2023?
The Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 will last from 16 August 2023 to 14 September 2023.
The important dates to note are 16 August 2023 (Chu 1 / 七月初一), 30 August 2023 (Chu 15 / 七月十五 / 七月半), and 14 September 2023 (Chu 30 / 七月三十).
How to celebrate Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore?
While variations in rituals and activities exist among various Chinese communities, the following customs are extensively embraced in Singapore as integral components of the festival observance.
Burn offerings for the spirits
On the first day (Chu 1 / 七月初一) and last day (Chu 30 / 七月三十) of the seventh lunar month, a widespread ritual involving the burning of incense, joss sticks, and paper money is commonly observed within the communities commemorating the Hungry Ghost Festival.
In Singapore, both households and businesses partake in this tradition, burning offerings as a gesture of reverence towards spirits and a quest for blessings. Even in prominent downtown districts such as Chinatown, Bugis, and Tanjong Pagar, one can readily observe this ritualistic practice throughout the month.
Throughout the duration of the Hungry Ghost Festival, Getai performances are organised across Singapore, serving as offerings to the spirits. Getai showcases a variety of acts including traditional folk songs, contemporary music, and dances performed by local artists.
Pray to the ancestors
In Taoism and folk beliefs, the Hungry Ghost Festival embodies the value of filial piety. Families will burn joss sticks and paper money for their ancestors on the 15th day (Chu 15) of the seventh lunar month.
Taoist temples will also organise Zhong Yuan Festival-related activities throughout the month for people to participate in.
When are the taboos during this festival?
In accordance with the Hungry Ghost Festival’s beliefs, there exist numerous taboos to steer clear of and rituals to adhere to.
Though these are rooted in myths rather than scientifically proven, there’s no harm in bearing them in mind to ensure personal safety and prevent any unintended incidents.
- Avoid isolated areas and areas such as lakesides or reservoirs after sunset
- Avoid mountainous areas
- Refrain from picking up random coins or red packets
- Refrain from stepping on the offerings along the road
- Refrain from whistling
- Refrain from patting others on the shoulder
- Refrain from calling others by their full name
- Refrain from singing at night when you are alone
- Refrain from taking photos and videos of secluded corners at night