GEORGE TOWN - Today marks the first day of the seventh lunar month when the Chinese community believes that hell's gate will open to allow spirits to roam freely in the human world for a month.
Many households and temples will hold prayer ceremonies throughout the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival (Phor Thor) to appease the spirits.
During the festival, believers will also worship the Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) in the form of paper effigies which will be "sent back" to hell after the effigies are burnt.
The Seck Chuan Lane Phor Thor Committee is said to be one of the few to start setting up an altar for devotees to offer prayers on the last day of the sixth lunar month, which was yesterday.
Committee member Lim Kok Cheong, 46, said it had been the tradition for close to a century for the committee to begin the festival a day before the start of the seventh lunar month.
He added that the altar would remain for four days before the giant Tai Su Yeah effigy was burned on Friday evening.
During the prayer ceremony, devotees will prepare offerings in the form of fruits, cakes, chicken, sugar pagoda and more to Tai Su Yeah.
Apart from that, the various Phor Thor committees will also organise Teo Chew opera performances, puppet shows and kotai (stage shows) to entertain the spirits and Tai Su Yeah.
The actual day of the festival falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month on Aug 21 and the last day is on Sept 4.