The seventh month of the Lunar calendar is also known as the scariest time of the year. According to Chinese customs, the month is known as the Ghost Month (鬼月), is when all hells break loose (literally) – ghosts are free to roam around at the time. Of course like all customs, there are traditions and rules to follow. What are some of the enduring practices and traditions that are stuck with us with regards to the Hungry Ghost Festival? With the Ghost Festival this 27 July 2014 to 24 August 2014, We list out the 10 things that the superstitious-you should avoid to play safe this Hungry Ghost Festival.
1) Taxi drivers beware
Stories usually go with a lady (usually in red or white, the pale, creepy vengeance colour) who will ask to be fetched to cemeteries in the dead of the night. It will be a normal ride where the poor taxi driver will fetch her to the place (Lim Chu Kang, Bukit Brown, Mount Pleasant) with normal transaction but by the dawn, the taxi drivers will find hell notes in his money.
2) No swimming
The most common belief of all is to avoid water or the sea. Tales from the past have linked occurrences of drowning and deaths to the Ghost Month, saying that the vengeful spirits who drowned in their previous lives are determined to take the living with them.
3) Not turning around over shoulder
The Chinese believes that there are two torches of fire on your shoulders. Turning your head over your shoulders will put out these torches, causing an imbalance of yin and yang energy, making you more vulnerable. If need be, turn your whole body when someone calls you from the back.
4) Do not pee on a tree
People in the army should know this rule very well. An enduring tale from long ago, boys who go for field camps and outfield are told to “apologize” or to avoid peeing on a tree. This is with regards to possibly anger the tree spirits that will haunt and follow the person around.
5) First rows of getais
Getais are live stages put up with vibrant performances during the Ghost Festival. Although getais are less prominent, facing a decline amongst the forward-moving generation, the tradition of leaving the first row of getais still applies. It is said that the first row is “reserved” for the ghosts.
6) Do not step on offerings
With many burning of incense papers and offerings of food of all sorts, one of the tradition is to avoid stepping or meddling with any of these. Doing so may anger the spirits which may then follow you home.
7) Do not kill rare insects in the house
It is a belief that rare insects that visit the house during this period are reincarnations of ancestors. The definition of rare can be quite subjective – the moths used to be “rare” but they were everywhere in the past month. Other than that, it is still safe to get rid of pests like cockroaches.
8) Hanging out clothes at night
Based on traditions, my grandmother used to warn me about washing and hanging out clothes late at night as wandering ghosts may “wear” your clothes and you draw them into your house when you keep them.
9) Chopsticks stabbed on rice
Other than looking obscenely rude, having chopsticks stabbed on your bowl of rice also resembles the joss sticks offerings to the dead. It is indirectly cursing your own death and also telling the spirits that it is their bowl of rice.
10) Opening umbrellas in the house
Opening umbrellas in the house is another open invitation for wandering ghosts to seek “shelter” under the umbrella.