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…

9 Responses to “Ghost Month”

  1. 1 WaterLearner Wednesday, August 29, 2007 at 11:13 am

    A good and informative post on the 7th month! Such a local festival of Singapore is it not??

    I can relate to the Getai. But Sugarcanes? I did not see them even when I was very small.

  2. 2 laokokok Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 8:21 am

    Hi WaterLearner, welcome here. Selling of sugarcanes are no longer popular. They were when wayang performances were in the afternoon in the past..

  3. 3 Victor Koo Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 9:32 am

    During my primary school days in the 1960s, a hawker outside my school sold packets of chopped-up sugar cane just like those in the photo. Can’t remember the price per packet, probably only 10 cents each.

    Not only that, another hawker sold fresh pineapple cubes in the same way. Very yummy when eaten with dark soya sauce and cut red chilli which he provided FOC as part of the 10-cent package price.

  4. 4 laokokok Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 10:25 am

    Victor, pineapple cubes are real yummy but then in the past – not much spare cash in hand too…

  5. 5 Patricea Chow Sunday, September 2, 2007 at 3:48 am

    I remember being brought to the wayang shows by my maternal grandmother when I was a kid. Then when I was slightly older, about 10 or so, I remember standing on the field near the back of the stage, watching the performers getting ready in the afternoons, applying their makeup or gluing on the hair.

    My mom, who is 61 this year, also used to tell me how she had to save her money to buy one of those ice-balls (early version of ice kachang) to eat after school, as even 10 cents was hard to come by.

  6. 6 Fashion Haw Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 4:22 am

    I certainly remember the birds nest drink(stall in picture),ice balls and sugar cane chops!The pictures really do bring back chilling memories.I used be scared of wayangs and the ghost month.My Mom didn’t like me playing outside or in the garden after dark.There was another scary persona that used to give me the creeps too.The legendary PONTIANAK!

  7. 7 zigzagza Tuesday, December 2, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    My grandparents were from a Teochew opera troup. Would you be interested in some of their photos?

  8. 8 Blank Incense Sticks Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Wow! After all I got a webpage from where I be capable of in fact take useful facts regarding my
    study and knowledge.

  1. 1 Jung Yuan Pu Du 中元普渡 « Liefintaiwan’s Weblog Trackback on Monday, August 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Blog Directory & Search engine singapore blog directory Personal Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory
I am a Supporter of

Blog Stats

  • 1,260,969 hits
August 2007

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: