Sunday 12 August 2007

Hungry ghost month

Today marks the start of the Ghost Month, the 7th month of the Chinese calendar when the gates of Hell burst open, unleashing the spirits of the restless dead, or the Hungry Ghosts. They roam around, hungry and looking for entertainment. So to appease the spirits, humankind will offer food and fruits, and burn paper money to line their pockets so that they do not disturb us. We also provide entertainment so that happy souls do not come haunt us.

On the nights of the seventh month, the Chinese are often afraid to go out at night for fear of encountering ghosts. Mum's always warning not to stay out late or swim in the open sea. Traveling overseas is frowned upon too. It is a brave Chinese person who ventures to the beach, for he may be lured into the water and drowned by the spirits of those lost at sea. The phenomenon of the Hungry Ghosts is said to explain the high level of catastrophes which are believed to occur in the seventh month. The Chinese avoid getting married or moving into new homes during this month.

This solemn festival culminates in the burning of offerings on full moon night, creating a truly eerie and wondrous spectacle. As kids, we enjoyed this part the most...the big bonfires!

This is also the month where you find loud and colourful Getais in the residential estates. A Getai (歌台), is a boisterous life stage performance by a group of singers, dancers and entertainers held during the Ghost Festival to entertain the spirits, in contrast to the sombre mood of the festival. The backdrop of the stage is usually made of cardboard and decorated with spotlights in bright colours like, red, blue, pink and yellow. The performers don loud and glittery costumes, and the compères spout crude jokes all in the name of fun.

Getais have evolved over the years, traditionally Chinese Opera was being performed, with the front rows being reserved for the “spirits”, but nowadays, it has become quite business like, with top shows, comperes, hosts, singers, dancers and other various performers being lined up to entertain the masses, who turn out in droves just to catch the latest song-stage happenings. It's that time of the year to ogle at babes in skimpy, sexy clothes!

Watching Getai has become a sub-culture of sorts. So much so that it has inspired our talented film-maker Royston Tan to make a raucous movie called 881 that’s brimming with nightclub costumes and giant feathers. In a nutshell, 881 is a lively getai movie with songs, performances, drama, comedy and the struggle of two girls – Big Papaya and Little Papaya - to become Getai stars.

See, I told you the Ghost Month is not that scary afterall!


Anonymous said...

Oh that is what vacation we are on now.. obon Golden Week is in May.. guess its like halloween or your ghost month... not really sure... havent seen any creeping around our house yet so, so far so good!

Blur Ting said...

No, you wouldn't want to see any creeping around your house!

J@n!ce said...

When I'm younger, my mummy does not allow me to stay out late on those days, neither can I go to the pool. I think you know why !! haha :D

Blur Ting said...

Hey Janice, would you allow your kids to go out late or swim during 7th month when they're older? I guess we may not be as strict as parents huh?