After the last episode of Two Weddings and A Birthday, I did not expect another round of something similar so soon. Was I wrong!
I attended a wedding dinner last weekend and another coming up this weekend. As for the birthday, celebrated one two weeks back. So, all that make up the same quota of two weddings and a birthday. LOL! No regrets though because they are all happy occasions and wonderful to get to meet up with friends and relatives.
August is a happening month, what with the Beijing Olympics and the number 8 significance. However, for the Chinese community, August this year, is not such an auspicious month because it is actually the seventh month of the lunar calendar.
Seventh month is also known as the Ghost Month or Hungry Ghost Festival where it is believed that the gates of hell open for the spirits to come to Earth, the human/living realm - which account for marriages, engagements, house-moving activities not scheduled in the Chinese community. One is advised during this seventh month to be extra careful especially on the road. People who are very sick are also wary of this month. It is believed that there are more deaths during this time of the year than any other month. KL had a fatal accident on the highway on the very first day of the seventh month.
This is the time of the year too where Chinese of the Taoist/Buddhist faith make offerings to their ancestors by way of buring incense and joss paper of neccessities and luxury items to ease their life in the afterlife. These papier-mache form of material items such as money, clothes, gold and silver mountains, mahjong sets, common luxury items such as tv sets, video recorders, camcorders, cameras, and these days, cable tv, laptops, you name it. Sometimes, even maids and chauffeurs are offered but they are usually offered during the funeral.
Some of us may wonder whether all this is true. A colleague once had a dream of her deceased mom telling her that she did not have enough to wear. My colleague sent her mom some clothes. She did not get that dream again.
Yet another lady had a dream that her MIL complained that she did not allow adequate time for her and her 'friends' to eat the food before they were removed. From then on, more time was given.
In addition to making offerings to ones own ancestors, some people also make offerings of (actual) food, money and clothes in addition to incense to stray spirits. This is done outside their home, by the roadside during dusk. This exercise is usually performed on either the fourteenth or fifteenth day of the seventh month, i.e., this Thursday and Friday. This would mean that there would be extra activity on these two days. Children are normally kept indoors when this activity is going on lest they come into contact with any spirit and fall ill.
On a business/community scale, there would be a lavish mass-offering of incense, money, and real food (roast pig included) in honour of the spirits. There would also be a stage set up for a show. For those in the know, the front rows are normally not occupied, leaving the seats for the VIPs (the spirits) - remember this activity is in honour of the spirits. This event or festival is to thank the spirits for a good past year and seek their blessing for the coming year.
In the old days, the stage was for opera shows but in recent times, the opera has been replaced by concerts (singing only) though there are still some opera shows but not enough to go around. Sadly, opera is a dying artform here in Malaysia.
So, be extra careful this seventh month, the last day being Aug 30. My non-Chinese colleagues are believers and they would normally ask the Chinese to remind them when this month comes around. They would keep their children at home before dusk.
Do you believe in ghosts (click this to read some real-life experiences) and the afterlife? Care to share your thoughts and experiences?