Saturday, September 5, 2009

When hell's let loose ...

Truth be told, we're not really big on festivities on our neck of the woods. There's always so much to do daily - we tend to forget that another season of festivities have arrived. The entire where the inhabitants of hell is let loose would have gone unnoticed had it not been many sightings of gigantic joss stick burnings (some 2 metres tall!), and bonfires. Infact, the Chief mistook the letting off of firecrackers around the neighbourhood recently was some sort of new fangled ritual of breaking fast i.e. "Yay! We can now eat!" (it's the Muslim's Holy Fasting month too) ... only to be informed later on that, it's the Hungry Ghost festival and the firecrackers are to ward off evil hungry ghosts.

Celebrated on the 7th Lunar Month which translates as the eighth month on the Gregorian calender, September ... (not sure how that works out but the Chief guesses if you count 7 moon cycles that would effectively brings us to middle of August and some weeks of September), the festival literally celebrates all hell breaking loose - for a month! Those who observe the festival believe that's when the hungry ghosts are let to roam the earth looking for 'food'.

An interesting superstition that the Chinese have about the festival is that it is bad to go swimming during the 7th month or stay out too late. This belief is that this leaves one open to demonic possession that may lead of injuries, sickness and even death! Needless to say, the 7th Lunar month is not considered an auspicious time to get married, start a business, move house or even to travel.
There's also a local cultural belief about the ominous howls of dogs. So you understand why our superstitious neighbours are doubly spooked when we have a howlin' good time!

Hell Notes

Traditional chinese families would celebrate this festival to remember their dead family members and pay tribute to them. At the same time, they also pray and pay tributes to other unknown wandering ghosts so that these homeless souls will not intrude into their daily life and bring along misfortunes or bad luck. They do this by burning joss sticks fake money or 'hell notes' and offer food.

Trick or Treat: Feasts for the Hungry Ghost!

Another belief among the Chinese is that the dead return to visit their living relatives during the 7th month and thus the living family would prepare a sumptuous meal for the ‘hungry ghosts’. The Chinese feel that they have to satisfy the ghosts in order to get good fortune and luck in their lives.

Chinese Opera

In Malaysia and Singapore, it is a common sight to see entertaining ‘ wayang’ or Chinese Opera and concerts performed on outdoor stages. These events are always held at night and are thunderously loud affairs with singing, screeching, dancing and performing. There is a belief that this loud entertainment would attract and please those wandering ghosts (half deaf ghosts perhaps?). Interestingly, the coveted front row seats are always left empty while the living audience are pack at the back ... You guessed it, the seats are reserved for the unseen ghosts!

Check out the paper stuff they are burning ! An entire paper condominium block?!

In addition to burning hell notes, the Chinese also do a lot of burnt offerings for their deceased - mainly paper representations of earthly material needs that the living strive to acquire in their lifetime. It's gotten quite extensive, even the Chief (who happens to be a paper enthusiast) is impressed! From paper high rise blocks (see picture), to houses, luxury cars (Mercedes Benzs!), Rolexs, flat screen TV , paper apparels ... you name it, they'll make it! The belief is, these burnt paper offerings would translate into real forms in hell - thus, providing their dead relatives a luxurious comfortable lifestyle - in hell! (?!)

Which leads us to the next curious question (a question that our fairly clueless Chief have asked her chinese side of the family) ... do all Chinese automatically end up in hell?


  1. Woof woof. probably not if they have a dog since the howling would frighten off the bad ghosties. Maybe the ones thats makes all those offewrings wills though, just thinks of all thats polutuin ans I bets its not bought with pretend money. We loved the history.

  2. Thanks for that glimpse into what's going on in your neck of the woods. My girls don't howl; they just bark, and once in a while when she's really happy, Sissy will bay. Wonder how that would translate?

  3. That's a lot of food. Do the living people get to finish what the ghosts leave behind?

    Thank you for sharing the culture of your area with us. It's fascinating.

  4. I think they finish up the food the ghosts leave behind ... waste not, want not, u know!

  5. Surely good Chinese doggies don't go to hell.
    Sally Ann

  6. Tuffy & gang, what a great post! I loved learning about the hungry ghosts! And my human had a chuckle at that last line :-)
    Your pal,

  7. Hmm ... all I know about Chinese hells I learned from "Big Trouble in Little China" so it's probably not all that accurate.

  8. Oh yes!

    Things like THIS are yet another demonstration of how khool blogging is!

    We learn about khultures and khountries much difFURent than our own. Fur some years, my mom's boss was Muslim (even though he had been born RomanKhatholikh) and observed Ramadan so she learned much from him.

    Paws khrossed that The DW Pakhk doesn't get too out of sorts during the celebrations and such!


  9. Thanks for sharing your interesting post and letting us know about your traditions!
    All that food for ghosts?? I want to be a ghost!!!
    Kisses and hugs

  10. That was a fascinating post! We, like Lorenze, reckon if all that food is for ghosts we best nip over.
    The all hell breaking loose was interesting given it has almost become an everyday saying.
    Different cultures and different belief systems - good to remember how diverse the world is.
    Have a great weekend.
    Martha & Bailey xxxx

  11. Wow. We're not big on ghosts, demonic possessions or firecrackers, but we loved this post! We think we now better understand the idea of "all hell breaking loose", but somehow we've never associated it with food and festivities. One more reason why we love all our friends. We learn so much and feel so much richer.

    Thanks, and love,
    Fergi and jake xxoo

  12. We can just keep reading and reading. This is soooo interesting and fascinating. We can more easily imagine you there, now, this month, the Seventh Lunar Month. How cool is that?

    We feel so lucky.
    Jake and Fergi

  13. Neat blog with cool and info and better yet... your dogs.Look forward to reading more in the future.

  14. Thank you for all the learnings!
    ~lickies, Ludo

  15. What interesting information! That's a lot of food.. makin' me hungry. And if I show Marge, it'll make her drool..

  16. Wow that is cool. We didn't know anything about that...

    Big Sloppy Kisses
    Gus, Louie and Callie

  17. wow what a great post...! Now I know that if some food accidentally disappears, I'll tell Momster about the ghosts! :)