Freegans gather bountiful 'harvest' of fruit from roadside offerings during Hungry Ghost Festival

Freegan Daniel Tay organised a night outing with three friends to gather fruits used in prayer offerings.
Freegan Daniel Tay organised a night outing with three friends to gather fruits used in prayer offerings.PHOTO: COURTESY OF DANIEL TAY

SINGAPORE - Getting scolded by a stranger for picking up oranges from a roadside offering at the start of the seventh lunar month did not deter Mr Daniel Tay from collecting more fruit left behind by worshippers.

The 41-year-old retired financial adviser even organised an outing on Sept 2 - the 15th day of the seventh month - with three friends to collect fruit in Bishan and Ang Mo Kio.

Over four hours, they got a bounty of 80 oranges and other fruit such as apples, rambutans, longans and pineapples.

Mr Tay and his friends are freegans - from the words "free" and "vegans" - people who reject consumerism and seek to reduce waste, especially by retrieving and reusing discarded items.

Mr Tay, who started Facebook group Freegan In Singapore in 2017, says he collects food offerings to reduce food waste.

The following night, he went around Bishan again with another friend and picked up 122 oranges.

He says: "My family and I have been eating oranges since last week. When we get tired of eating them, we will juice them."

To ensure he was not offending the spirits - or the living - he consulted a Taoist master, who advised him to collect offerings only after the candles and joss sticks have stopped burning, and to utter a word of thanks and bow as a sign of respect.

The group also went out after midnight to avoid questions from or misunderstandings with passers-by.


Daniel Tay and his friends collected a bounty of 80 oranges and other fruit such as apples, rambutans, longans and pineapples. PHOTOS: DANIEL TAY

Mr Tay first picked up fruit from roadside offerings last year, when he landed 130 oranges.

"My mother was bewildered when I brought so many oranges home. But this year, she is looking forward to having orange juice," he says.

 
 
 

Mr Tay decided to ask his friends along this year, after he was asked several times if freegans could collect food offerings left behind by worshippers.

Mr Tan Choo Beng, 62, a Taoist priest for 39 years, says it is fine to do so after prayer rites are complete and the joss sticks, candles and joss paper have finished burning.

He adds: "Some of these offerings are meant for wandering ghosts, who may not have living kin to pray and make offerings to them. The offerings are symbols of respect for the dead."

As for the fear that the wandering spirits may be offended, Mr Tan says it is a superstitious misconception.

Mr Tay plans to have another outing on Sept 16, the last day of the seventh month.

He says with a chuckle: "I am still hoping that someone will leave durians as prayer offerings."