Emperor Gods festival ends with ritual ship set on fire

On Thursday night, a procession of floats, performers in costumes, and hundreds of devotees made their way from the Hougang Tou Mu Kung Temple to the beach at Pulau Punggol Timor.

It was the ninth day of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, a key event in the Taoist calendar.

The 10-day celebration culminated in devotees setting a ship made of paper on fire before releasing it into the sea. The ritual is to bid goodbye to the Nine Emperor Gods, whom devotees believe provide blessings and protection.

Sales executive Madeline Choo was one of more than 1,000 people who were at the procession.

She has been attending the Nine Emperor Gods Festival since she was a child.]

Said the 27-year-old: "It was a family tradition that has been passed down from my great-grandmother's time."

Ms Choo, who was helping out with crowd control duties that night, is among a growing number of younger people who are taking part in the festival.

"I think more people are coming down for personal reasons. Some of my friends come mostly to offer voluntary help in exchange for blessings from the gods," she said.


The secretary-general of the Taoist Federation Youth Group, Mr Chung Kwang Tong, said that he, too, has noticed more young people turning up.

The 29-year-old said that the increase could be due to social media, as many devotees share online their experiences attending the festivals.

He said: "In the past, they (younger devotees) would come with their family, or their grandparents would bring them along.

"But now, most of them come with their friends, who might be curious to know more about the festival."

Young people these days want to know the significance of the festivals and why their parents or grandparents attend them, he added.

He told The New Paper that the temple occasionally holds exhibitions or puts up posters to share the meaning behind festivals and other activities.

Mr Dennis Wee, who has been attending the festival for the last 17 years, said he usually takes the opportunity to pray for family stability, health and peace.

The 41-year-old driver, who was one of the men carrying the decorated sedan chairs, added: "We abstain from meat for this festival. It's a chance to relieve ourselves from our sins."


This article was first published in The New Paper on October 4, 2014.

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