Ghost Month and the Hungry Ghost Festival: 12 things to avoid

·5-min read
Stock image of burnt paper money. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Paper money, or known as 'Hell Money' are burnt as offerings during the Hungry Ghost Festival. Hell money is considered as money to be used by the dead in hell. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Mention the Ghost Month and the Hungry Ghost Festival, and almost anyone in Singapore will know what these are.

But what about superstitions during the seventh lunar month?

The Chinese believe that the Ghost Month is the most inauspicious month of the year. Inexplicable unfortunate things tend to happen during this period.

To help get through this month safely, here are some taboos that believers will not violate. Even if you’re not a Buddhist or a Taoist, it is also respectful to be aware of them.

1. Don’t step on roadside offerings

Roadside offerings to appease the roaming ghosts are a common sight during this period.

However, you should be mindful of these temporary altars and not step on them, which include the burnt marks left on the floor after burning joss paper.

If you accidentally do so, it's suggested that one apologises or an unwanted visitor may follow you home.

2. Don’t stay out late

The yin energy is believed to be the strongest at night, giving the ghosts spiritual powers.

Children and pregnant people are advised to not stay out late as the spirits tend to go after young kids and foetuses.

People who lack in yang energy may also have higher chances of bumping into a ghost at night.

3. Don’t enter water bodies

One of the classics, vengeful water spirits are thought to lie in wait to capture unsuspecting victims.

They said to be looking for a substitute to take their place so that they can finally be reincarnated. Or they may just want a companion.

Whatever the case, it's likely you know a Singaporean or two who has been told to avoid swimming during the Ghost Month by their parents.

Blue sea with rays of sunlight, ocean surface seen from underwater. (Photo: Getty Images)
Better cancel all your swimming plans during the Hungry Ghost month. (Photo: Getty Images)

4. Don’t kill insects that come into your house

The insects, like moths, butterflies, and grasshoppers, are believed to be the spirits of ancestors returning for a visit.

According to those who practise, killing them will be the equivalent of killing your ancestors.

It’s best to leave them be (or set them free outside the home).

5. Don’t put your chopsticks into your rice bowl

Although this is not limited to just the Ghost Month, putting your chopsticks into your rice bowl, especially in a upright position, symbolises an offering for the spirits (it looks like joss sticks in a food offering).

Unless you want to share your food with them, or worse still, be haunted by them for messing with their offerings, place your chopsticks flat on the bowl or on the table.

6. Don’t move house

When you move house, spirits may see it as an invitation into your new home or may attach to your new furniture.

This is why, in some years, property transactions fall during this period.

Silhouette of girl on television in white room. (Photo: Getty Images)
Moving house during the Hungry Ghost month may net you a new companion. (Photo: Getty Images)

7. Don’t answer if someone or something calls or taps you from behind

Another classic, it is believed that if you turn when someone calls or taps you from behind, malicious spirits will reveal themselves to you.

People may end up missing or fall mysteriously sick after encountering these spirits.

8. Don’t take pictures late at night

According to some, taking pictures at night may capture ghosts in action, or even trap them in photographs or the devices.

Unless you want some misfortune in your life, you should not press that shutter at night.

9. Don’t sit in the first row of a getai performance

Getai is one of the highlights during the Ghost Month.

As much as these performances can be enjoyed by humans, they are mainly for entertaining the roaming spirits.

The first row of seats are usually reserved for them. Sitting in these seats may incur their wrath.

In this Wednesday Aug. 21, 2013 photo, residents leave the front row of seats reserved for
Always leave the front row of a Getai show for your guests during the Hungry Ghost month. (Photo: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

10. Don’t hold weddings

As the Ghost Month is inauspicious, marriages during this period are believed not last long.

The more superstitious will also avoid visiting the sick in hospital, getting surgery or attending a funeral during this month.

11. Don’t whistle at night

Roaming spirits are said to be attracted to sounds like whistling or singing at night.

If you don’t want them to pay you a visit, it’s best to keep quiet at night.

The back of the heads of two multi-ethnic businesswomen sitting in chairs, attending a business conference or seminar.  The focus is on the one with dark hair, a Pacific Islander. The other woman is tapping her on the shoulder trying to get her attention.
Don't tap your friends shoulders or head, unless you want them to be defenceless during the Hungry Ghost month. (Photo: Getty Images)

12. Don’t put your hand on someone’s shoulder or head

According to Chinese folklore, we have three invisible flames, namely on our shoulders and head, that are essential to ward off evil spirits.

Putting your hand on someone’s shoulder or head will put out the flame.

This may make the person more susceptible to ghostly encounters.

Are there other superstitions you follow during the Ghost Month? Let us know on our social media pages!

Here's what you need to know about the Hungry Ghost Festival and the Ghost Month.

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