Archive for August 27th, 2007

Ghost Month

Today is the 15th of July (Chinese Month) and it’s again must close windows again. Why?  To avoid those burning incense “flying” into my house…

I don’t know if it’s coincidence or what, whenever during the Chinese 7th month period  I used to see those “special” insects like very big moth (Atlas Moth- the edges of their wings look like snake head to scare off their enemies);

or even weird grasshopper;

Some said these are “their” transporters or “themselves” (you know what I’m talking about”. Our elders told us in the past, not to step on them or disturb them.

I’m wondering what title should I used for this post : “Getai”, “Song Stage”, “Chinese 7th Month”, “Hungry Ghost Festival” or “中元节”? Actually they mean more or less the same issues…or topics…or things….

Why the sudden interest in this Getai or Song Stage in Singapore recently? Probably it’s due to the publicity of the local movie “881”.

You may ask what so special about this festival? This is one celebrated by – I may say regardless of individuals, company, nationality and countries… many MNCs also celebrate it or at least don’t stop their employees from celebrating it. I’ve seen employees and staffs of big and small corporation making offerings during the Chinese 7th Month.

Here are some of the characteristics of this Chinese 7th Month;

1. Wayang Show;

I remember the Getai and Wayang shows were very popular in the 70s. During the day time, it was the Wayang show and at that time, the stage were made of wooden poles (nowadays it’s metal poles) and much higher.

Below shows the wooden stage for the Wayang Show;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

As years passed by, the number of audiences watching the wayang is getting lesser and lesser. As the cost for staging a wayang show is high, and the demand is getting lesser – the wayang show somehow is disappearing from the local scene.

In the 80s when the economy was bad, some organisers made do with screening of movies at night during the Hungry Ghost Festivals instead of Wayang and Getai.

2. Temporary Stalls;

These were probably things of the past as nowadays most temporary stalls are considered illegal! Maybe what’s left are the Ice Cream Man Stalls haha.

Under the wooden stage, there were carrom board and children were playing carrom with sticks to hit the seeds! A totally different way to play carrom. Also many delicious road side food and drinks stalls then. Some of those stalls were Tikam, Toys, Swallow Drinks and Sugar Cane…not forgetting those gaming stalls. Of course, sometimes there were Puppet Shows instead of Wayang Shows.

Below shows some stalls set up during the festival in 1978.

Tikam stall;

Swallow Drink Stall;

Sugar Cane Stall;

Photo Credit : All 3 photos – National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

3. Offerings;

Those gigantic joss sticks, and road side burning of incense especially during the night time were some related to the festival. I remember it was also a time where children helping in folding of “ingots” for the offering were put in bags and bags of plastic bags;

Photo Credit : Silentshutter.

Giant Joss Sticks;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

Remember I mentioned that this festival is also celebrated by the companies staffs of various nationality or race;

Photo Credit : Swami – A group photo of staffs celebrating the Chinese 7th month.

In most companies, a leader will organise such event and collect money for the offering. After the prayers, each member will get their share if they paid for the offerings;

Photo Credit : Swami

Below shows an offering by some shop owners in Tampines Mart and an afternoon prayer session;

4. Dinner and Bidding at Auction;

Night time, dinner and those noisy bidding (auction for good luck items) are the norm.

Here is a photo of the Bidding in action and the dinner during a Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival in 1979;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

Below are some items for the auctioning during the dinner time at the Hungry Ghost Festival in Tampines Mart;

The most popular item is the “Black Gold” which is actually Charcoal being wrapped up nicely for the offering. One thing to note for such auctioning is that what you bid this year successfully must be paid up by next year offering. Of course, there were some who default in their payment…

5. Getai;

Besides the night dinner and bidding, getai is the most popular event to be enjoyed by the young and old. As the wayang show disappearing, the getai is getting popular by the cost is even higher.

Remember last year, someone came out with Afternoon Getai.

A typical night Getai at Tampines Mart;

and one of those dialect song;

I wonder for how many more years will such practises still carried on? Even my own Sec. 1 son is not interested in these getai….sigh…


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August 2007