There are lots of wonderful things about living in Asia, all sorts of traditions that are a bit out there for a foreigner, and one of the highlights for me is Hungry Ghost Month. The tradition is during the seventh month of the year, you should not do normal activities, like buying or moving into a new house, you definitely shouldn’t get married, or make any other major purchases, like buying a new car.
Why? Because the gates of Hell are flung open as the spirits of the underworld are let loose to party and cause mischief. During the seventh month, the dead move among the living. To appease the ghosts, all over Singapore (as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia – or any predominately Taoist or Buddhist society) – you’ll see shrines towering with offerings to appease the ghosts. Traditional offerings are food and paper effigies of daily items ghosts might need in the afterlife – homes, maids, daily items, and more.
During Hungry Ghost Month, you’ll see huge bins on fire all over the island and the smell of incense becomes a part of daily life. There’ll be big parties around town, but there is always one table reserved for the ghosts. On it will be a tablecloth, chopsticks, plates, glasses of wine, and the signature dish – a roasted pig’s head in the middle. So if you turn up at one of these parties, don’t sit at this table.
My three and a half year old Jax discovered the Hungry Ghost Month shrines this year, which I was very cool about because one of the main reasons for moving back to Asia is to give my lads a perspective on a lot of different religious and cultural practises, rather than just what I was exposed to as a child. Singapore covers most of the major religions and cultures in the world, so it’s a superb place for this. Not to mention, how can a little lad resist such a colourful spectacle, and with candles and incense burning away, fire is always going to get attention.
The only problem is, a three year old struggles to understand that the offerings at a Shrine are not for him. Cups of coffee, no problem. Cigarette butts, no problem. Stale soggy biscuits, no problem. Piles of bright oranges, no problem. But Chuppa Chups – PROBLEM!
We have a no Chuppa Chup policy in our house, because I want the boys to have great teeth. As such, they are welcome to eat as many as they want at a birthday party, and I did get Jax to stay in the cinema for Cars 2 yesterday only with the assistance of Chuppa Chups – hey it was his first cinema experience, so a special day. But otherwise, no no no! Because the lollipops were discovered in one place, every shrine became a tantalizing temptation for the Jaxster, and anyway, what the hell do ghosts need Chuppa Chups for? Are they all taking e’s and dancing their nuts off in the afterlife?
Yours, without the bollocks