Chinese Ghost Festival 31Jul to 28-Aug 2011

It’s the Seventh Lunar Month again, the Chinese Ghost Festival, when hell’s gates are opened to let out all the ghosts to wander the earth for a period of one month, this time it’s from 31 July to 28 August.  In fact, on the 30-July, the smell of incense and burning was already in the air.  There were already people burning paper money in the bin downstairs around our neighborhood.  I was also quite surprised to see office girls wearing heels, standing near to the ION MRT Station, entrance near to Wisma Atria, shuffle-ring paper money preparing for praying.  I have only seen aunties and uncles doing all these.  The smell still lingers when you go down the escalator to the area near the Sephora store.

I asked my colleague an interesting question today – whether the gates are opened in the night or day.  Does the gate closed in the day, and letting out the hungry ghosts only during the night?  Was told it’s left opened for the whole month, never close.  I have thought ghosts come out only during the night.  How are they to survive under the sun?  The colleague said they find shelter to hide.  Immediately what came to mind was a pretty ghost walking under the shade of an umbrella up and down the street visiting the living, and hid inside only when the umbrella is closed.

Spooky Ghost Month (Aug-20 till Sep-18)

2 more days and it will be the 15th day of the Seventh Lunar Month which is the Ghost Festival, and the hell’s gates will be open in which all the ghosts and spirits will come up from their purgatory to wander the earth and visit their living relatives and friends for a month, and find food and entertainment offered to them.   It’s different from the Ching Ming Festival which is the living paying their respects and providing offerings for the deceased’s welfare in the afterlife.  This time it’s them coming up to visit the living.  As from what I see, the activities all seem to be similar; such as burning incense, hell notes and whatever paraphernalia like houses, cars or even IT gadgets all made of paper supposedly for the deceased.   What amused me was also paper branded goods like LV bags which I saw selling in one of the local markets.

As part of the celebrations, a large feast is also held for these spirits, with live singing performances to entertain them.   The front seats are usually empty as they are meant for the ghosts to sit and enjoy the show.  I have attended such previous 8-course dinner before.  It’s only the loud atmosphere and the smell of burning joss sticks and cigarettes lingering in the air that I dislike.  Everywhere you see smoke swirling in the air – guys sitting around smoking, altar filled with food offerings and those very big joss sticks, and a guy on the stage shouting the bids of goods at the top of his lungs, until his face all red, his voice hoarse and his shirt soaked with perspiration.  Then another performing stage will at the same time filled with loud blast of music from the stereos and women singers wearing sexy clothes singing and entertaining whoever is watching.  I like to see the way they dressed, though, with all the bling bling and the makeup on their faces.  They are pretty and the singers could earn quite well performing from one stage to another in different locations.  Of course they need to have a chauffeur and a car where they could change during the move-around.

During this time, we were also told not to stay out too late at night, to avoid bumping into the roaming spirits if luck is low.  Do not turn our head if we hear our names being called.  Not sure why but just my guess – in case it’s a trick from the ghosts to capture our soul, hee?  Oh yes, also avoid going swimming.  Recently I signed up for a swimming class, and it didn’t occur to me that there’s any relation to this month.  Later the coordinator called and said a pregnant woman asked to postpone till Sep, and so she had to notify other students as well.  At first I did wonder what can happen as the pool is in a Christian organisation, but of course it’s better to be on the safe side.  I take it as a blessing in disguise as I will have more time to shop for a swimming costume.

New Year Resolutions 2009

3 more weeks to go before Chinese New Year, and I’m already starting on my first resolution of the year to lose some weight (By the way it’s always the same every year).  Hopefully when the festive season comes, even if not model-slim I would still be able to fit into some of the clothes which I couldn’t wear previously.

Of course, looking at the piles of books in my room, my next resolution is also to be able to clear away some of the old books before I buy new ones.  I could never resist buying books when visiting a bookstore.  New arrived books are always on the shelf faster than my reading them.   My room is already a place of disaster, with so many things lying around everywhere, and it’s really time to clear away the mess and clutters.

As CNY is approaching, I have to start spring cleaning the whole house.  I have packed away loads of plastic bags full of mess from my room which include flyers, brochures, Reader’s Digest personal letters and other stuff which I have accumulated over the year and never discard immediately.  Just the other day I was trying to move a small table to the side of my bed, in my enthusiasm I forgot there’s a drawer at the front.  Imagine I was carrying up the table and out came the drawer and down crashed onto my left foot – Bang!  Ouch, it’s painful.  Thank God after that I could still walk, though with a blue-black still vivid until now.

And 2 days before this incident, I was also trying to take down an IKEA plastic shelf from my built-in book shelf.  Down came all the paper-bags which I collect, and struck my head and face.  No damage done, just wonder what’s next to come.

Well, days before Chinese New Year are always the busiest time for us, as it’s a major holiday for the Chinese family, and there’s a lot of preparation to be done.  A lot of cleaning up to do, getting new furnishings to the house, buying decorations and goodies etc…  And our kitchen ceiling is also showing signs of cracks and raining spalling concrete, so it’s also time to get contractors to do repair works and put a new coat of paint to the whole place, so to be ready for the celebration.

So back to my NY resolutions, hopefully I’ll be able to fulfill at least the above 2 first before they become unfulfilled resolutions again next year, then set new ones after.  Just wonder why the beginning of the New Year always has this strange hold over us, huh?  There’s always an impetus to start afresh, break old habits, do things better and achieve more goals in life etc.  Whatever the reasons, let me wish everyone, regardless of race, nationality and culture, a good year ahead and a Happy & Prosperous Lunar New Year, and hope that God will let the economic tsunami pass in an exciting New Year.

Mid-Autumn Festival

 


Today (14th Sep, Sun) is the Mid-autumn festival, aka the Mooncake festival, because it’s the only time mooncakes are sold in the market. The actual date falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar and is usually around September month in the Gregorian calendar, and this year it happens to fall on a Sunday.
Families usually celebrate this day eating mooncakes, pomelos and drinking chinese tea while gazing at the moon believing that there’s a moon fairy living in the moon with a jade rabbit accompanying her.

The legend goes that Chang-er accidentally swallowed the elixir of life which belonged to her husband Hou-yi, and her body started becoming light and flew up into the sky. The pill was given to the husband as a reward for his shooting down the scorching 9 sun relieving the people’s sufferings in the field. So, it’s said that every full moon, when you look at the moon, you’ll see the shadow of a woman that looked like Chang-er. And the round mooncakes eaten are symbolic of the moon which is especially round & bright on this day, meaning family unity and closeness. Pomelos are also eaten because the Chinese word “you” 柚 sounds like 保佑bao you (protection), so expressing the hope that the moon fairy will give them protection this day.

If you find this story just a mythology, what about the historical fact which sounds more like the actual reason for eating mooncakes and celebrating the festival.

Continue reading