Top 10 'taboos' to avoid during the hungry ghost festival in Singapore

Top 10 'taboos' to avoid during the hungry ghost festival in Singapore
Regardless of your belief, there are some taboos to avoid, such as swimming and night activities.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The air is thick with incense smoke as people crowd around the containers and pits to burn their offerings.

It is the time of the Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore - when the floodgates of the netherworld are opened, unleashing ghosts and spirits in our midst as they seek to indulge in food, money and entertainment.

These materialistic pursuits are not exclusive to the living; the ghosts are equally hungry for them too.

This year, the traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival runs from Aug 14 to Sept 12, and festivities will kick into full swing with pomp and ceremonies on Aug 28.

Elaborate variety performances called Getai ("song stage" in Chinese) will spout out in the neighbourhoods, entertaining both the living and the dead.

Many adherents will also pay homage to their deceased ancestors with food, joss paper, and other outlandish paper offerings resembling cars, gadgets, and houses, hopefully appeasing vengeful spirits and buying good karma.

The living will also be careful not to be on the wrong side of the (supernatural) law, as superstitions kick into overdrive during this month. Regardless of your belief, there are some taboos to avoid, such as swimming and night activities.

As the adage goes, a hungry man is an angry man, and so, a hungry ghost is an angry ghost.

Here are the 10 'taboos' according to fengshuibeginner.com and Central News Agency Taiwan,  to avoid making a hungry ghost an angry ghost:

1) Swimming

Think of the reincarnation system as the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) quotas. Someone dies, and that frees up a slot for an evil ghost to rebirth. Rebirthing is a luxury evil spirit can't afford, so they will prowl (hover around) the swimming pools to drown people and grab a slot at reincarnation.

2) Selfies, whistles, or any forms of self-indulgence

Whistling will attract ghosts, and selfies will make you shudder like Shutter. Remember the Thai horror flick Shutter - where a ghost appeared in photos? Lie low and it may very well save your life.

3) New things

New houses, new businesses, new relationships. Avoid all things new as this month is considered to be highly inauspicious, unless you are sadistic and want to wreck it. New water is ok though.

4) Hang your clothes outside to dry

You love your designer labels and chic style, and so do these fiends. Think you are the only one with expensive taste? Haven't you heard that the devil wears Prada?

5) Gold digger

Seen some moolah on the ground? Found some bling-bling lying inconspicuously on the road? STOP! It may very well belong to a ghost, or it may be a trap. Remember, hell hath no fury like a ghost conned.

6) Night activities

As the dust settles and the last rays disappear over the horizon, the night is supposedly when these devilish spirits roam the earth in full force looking for some unsuspecting soul to possess. Your parents impose curfews for a reason, so follow it. After all, Mummy knows best.

7) Kick or trample on offerings

The hungry ghost festival transforms the sidewalks into a minefield strewn with joss paper, charred offerings and food. Keep a wide berth and never step on these offerings.

8) Wear red clothing

Ghosts are apparently attracted to red, so avoid becoming a target board to be possessed. Not too sure about your Louboutins? Better be safe than sorry.

9) Fill the front row seats at Getais

Unless you fancy sitting on the laps of ghosts, do not fill the front row seats at Getais. While the seats look empty, there is more to the empty seats that meet the eye.

10) Turning your head when someone pats you on the shoulder

A favourite prank of the living, this prank has been cleverly adapted by the dead to rob their victim of their 'protective flames', which is supposedly found on our shoulders. Turning your head over the shoulder will snuff out the protective flame, rendering you vulnerable. To circumvent this, turn your whole body instead of your head. Or shoulder guards.

grongloh@sph.com.sg

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