SINGAPORE - Smoke fills the evening skies and the sounds from the getai stage reverberate around the neighbourhood - it's that time of year again for the Hungry Ghost Festival.
For those who are less acquainted with the festival, here are a few pointers.
When is the festival
Hungry Ghost Festival takes place on the seventh month of the Lunar calendar.
This year's edition starts Aug 22 and concludes Sept 19.
A festival for ghosts
It is believed that the gates of the netherworld are opened during this time for spirits to roam the living world.
These spirits and ghosts seek food and offerings for the month.
Due to their nature of being trapped between the living and spiritual realms, they are unable to eat or drink, which results in them being perennially hungry.
Who observes it and how
The festival is mostly observed by Chinese in Singapore.
Adherents burn incense and paper effigies of cars, mobile phones and clothing for their deceased ancestors, as well as lay out food for the ghosts.
Getai, which means "song stage" in Chinese, consists of traditional opera and puppet performances meant for both the dead and the living.
But it has evolved to include more boisterous, and even risque, performances involving singers and entertainers.
Things to watch out for
In a month where ghouls are supposedly running freely, one has to take careful heed not to inadvertently cross paths with or anger them. Those who observe the festival believe in the following precautions:
1. Home improvements on hold
Some people believe that relocating or sprucing up your home or office is ill-advised during this time as it risks incurring the ire of any residing spirits.
If, however, you need to move urgently, it may not be an entirely bad thing.
A good discount might be negotiated as superstitious buyers shun the property market during the period.
2. Reserved front row seats
While you might fancy a closer look at the singers belting out Hokkien favourites in their flamboyant costumes, unfortunately the front row "Gold Class" seats have been reserved.
For whom you ask? Our departed friends from purgatory, of course.
3. Avoid swimming pools
Superstition goes that spirits lurk around pools waiting for a chance to drown unsuspecting swimmers, in order to get a chance at reincarnation.
Let's not tell our SEA Games swimmers about this, okay?
4. Be kind to insects
Creepy-crawlies might scare some of us more than spirits do, but how about the two of them in one body?
Refrain from killing insects during this time as it might just be your great-granduncle.
5. Red alert on outfits
Like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal fans, ghosts are apparently attracted to red.
These spirits are more likely to possess people dressed in red, according to believers.