The Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore is celebrated during the 7th lunar month which is August. This is a Chinese traditional festival which is known as Zhong Yuan Jie in Mandarin. It is believed that during this period ghosts and spirits are thought to wander the mortal world when hell’s gates open.
This festivity honours departed ancestors and appeased wandering spirits with ceremonies, sacrifices, and entertainment.
As Singapore prepares for this significant festivity, let’s explore the Hungry Ghost Festival 2023’s customs, rituals and festivities.
Explore more about Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival
- What is the Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival?
- When is the Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival 2023?
- How Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated?
- What you can do During Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival 2023?
- What to Avoid During the Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival 2023?
- What you can Offer During the Hungry Ghost Festival?
What is the Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival?
The Hungry Ghost Festival called Zhong Yuan Jie is based in a Chinese traditional belief. It is celebrated during the seventh lunar month, which is August. Chinese community celebrates the occasion religiously and culturally.
Chinese folklore and Taoist beliefs say the gates of hell open in the seventh lunar month, letting spirits and ghosts wander Earth. These ghosts are thought to be restless ancestors seeking offerings and relief. The celebration honours and appeases wandering spirits to protect the living.
Singapore’s Hungry Ghost Festival honours the dead with ceremonies. The most prevalent practises involve providing food, beverages, and other symbolic goods, burning joss paper (also known as “spirit money”), and entertaining wandering spirits with traditional Chinese opera or live performances.
The festival’s magnificent altars and stages in open areas and home entrances are a highlight. These are decorated with fruit, food, incense, and other gifts. These sacrifices are supposed to satisfy hungry spirits and assure their afterlife.
Joss paper burning is another holiday custom. Joss paper—fake money or other items—is burnt to give the spirits riches and comfort. The idea is that ghosts may utilise the offerings in their otherworldly life.
In the seventh month, public areas host Chinese opera and concerts. The ghosts are said to enjoy these occurrences.
During the Hungry Ghost Festival, individuals avoid actions that may anger the ghosts such as late-night outings, swimming, and haunted sites.
When is the Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival 2023?
Singapore celebrates the Hungry Ghost Festival on the 15th night of the 7th lunar month, also known as Chinese Ghost Month. This year, Ghost Day falls on Wednesday – 30 August 2023.
Moreover, this year, the Hungry Ghost Festival starts on 16 August 2023 and will end until 14 September 2023.
During this period, Chinese people avoided important choices like establishing a new company or relocating during this month because they felt catastrophes and other bad occurrences were more probable. During the celebration, gifts and ceremonies appease wandering spirits and honour ancestors.
Key Dates during Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival 2023:
- 16 August 2023 – This is the first day of the 7th lunar month, and the Hungry Ghost Festival officially starts on this day. It is believed that during this day the gates of hell are thought to open, allowing departed ghosts to return to our world.
- 30 August 2023 – The 15th day of the 7th lunar month is known as Zhong Yuan Jie or Ghost Day when it is believed that spirits are most active in our realm. On this day, it is customary to burn joss paper and offer food to appease the ravenous spirits.
- 14 September 2023 – The 29th day of the seventh lunar month marks the end of the Ghost Month. It is believed that the Gate of Hell closes, and the spirits return to the afterlife.
- Please do note to check the lunar calendar since dates may change.
How Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated?
Asian cultures commemorate the Hungry Ghost Festival. The Ghost Month, the seventh month, is when ghosts and spirits, especially departed ancestors, are allowed to wander the mortal world. Spirits want food, amusement, and attention from the living at this season of increased spiritual activity.
The celebration lasts the whole seventh month, although the first day, the 15th day (Ghost Day), and the last day are the most important. These days honour and placate spirits with specific rites and sacrifices.
- The 1st Day: On the first day of the seventh month, the afterlife gates open, enabling spirits to begin their “vacation” on Earth. Families build elaborate altars at home or at temples to honour their ancestors. Ancestral worship involves placing food, fruits, incense, and joss paper on altars.
- Ghost Day (the 15th day of the seventh month): The Hungry Ghost Festival peaks on Ghost Day. On this day, spirits are most active and may visit living relatives for food and attention. Candles and incense lead spirits to offerings. In public settings, elaborate Chinese opera and performing arts displays deter ghosts from creating trouble.
- Hungry Ghost Festival ends on the seventh month’s final day. On this day, the ghosts return to the afterlife and hell closes. Families make last rites and sacrifices to help souls return to the other world.
What you can do During Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival 2023?
From 16 August to 14 September 2023, the Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival 2023 offers many activities and traditions to enjoy the unique cultural event. Festival activities:
- Enjoy traditional Chinese opera and performing arts events in diverse neighbourhoods. These performances are said to please wandering ghosts.
- Visit Temples and Altars: Devotees worship, burn incense, and make sacrifices to their ancestors and spirits at magnificently decorated temples and altars.
- The mesmerising “Floating Lanterns” or “Water Lanterns” ritual releases shimmering lanterns into water bodies to convey ghosts to the afterlife.
- Street Decorations: Enjoy the holiday mood with red lanterns and colourful decorations on the streets.
- Feast: Enjoy excellent meals during the spirit offerings.
- Attend religious events to honour ancestors and spirits.
- Participate in Temple Prayer Sessions: Temple devotees pray for blessings, protection, and well-being for their families.
- Visit Museums and Cultural Exhibitions: Learn about the Hungry Ghost Festival and its cultural effect on Singapore.
- Festive Markets: Visit festive markets to find joss paper, traditional offerings, and other festival things.
- Visit Ancestral Graves: If allowed, visit cemeteries to honour departed family members.
- Help Others: During this season, assisting others is said to bring luck.
What to Avoid During the Singapore Hungry Ghost Festival 2023?
During the 2023 Hungry Ghost Festival, the 7th month is unlucky and requires care to avert ill luck or wandering spirits. Avoid them at this time:
- Don’t start a new business. Spirits may sabotage a new business endeavour at this time.
- To prevent ghosts, don’t stay out late or go out at night.
- Don’t move into a new home. Moving into a new home during Ghost Month may draw ghosts.
- Don’t swim or do water activities. Spirits enter via water, therefore avoid it during Ghost Month.
- Avoid picking up anything from the ground. Spirit offerings may be on the ground, so don’t pick them up.
- Don’t disturb the offerings. Disturbing spirits’ offerings on altars and public locations may irritate them and cause harm.
- To avoid being “touched” by ghosts, don’t hang garments outdoors to dry late at night.
- Wear name-free Clothes: Wearing clothing with your name may help spirits find you.
- Don’t turn your head when someone is calling you: Turning your head when called during this month may attract ghosts.
- Whistling during Ghost Month is unlucky and may attract ghosts.
- Some families give their children little red triangle religious pendants with temple papers to safeguard them this month. Others preserve these documents with religious bands or purses.
What can you Offer During the Hungry Ghost Festival?
The Hungry Ghost Festival relies on offerings during Ghost Month, the seventh month. These sacrifices placate and honour wandering spirits and departed ancestors, assuring their afterlife well-being. The ghosts are comforted and fed with symbolic offerings. This season’s offerings include:
- Paper Money. Paper money, also known as “Hell Bank Notes,” is burnt to provide spirits financial resources in the afterlife. This symbolic money is said to help spirits in their spiritual world.
- Incense Candles/Joss Sticks. These are burnt to speak with the spirits and lead them to the offerings. The fragrant smoke carries the living’s prayers and intentions to the afterlife.
- The event burns elaborate paper effigies of material items. Paper homes, automobiles, phones, clothing, and other luxurious objects may be used. These objects are meant to console souls in the afterlife.
- Food Offerings. Altars and public locations are decorated with food, fruits, and sweets for the spirits. These gifts provide hungry ghosts with a symbolic meal during their stay.
- Candles and lanterns brighten altars and welcome spirits. These lights direct souls to their gifts and back to the afterlife.
- Ancestor Tablets. The names of departed family members are etched on altar tablets to honour them during the festival.
- Depending on the family’s spirituality, donations may include texts, Buddhist sutras, or Taoist talismans.