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A Peek at the Ghost Festival (7th Month) in Chinatown

Chinatown's 7th Month Fest: Pink lanterns, good buddies and traditions 🏮👻




“It’s the 7th Month, better come home early!” said many worried mothers in Singapore when it’s that time of the year. Yes, that’s now. But what exactly is the 7th Month all about?


Officially, it is known as the Zhongyuan Festival 中元节 in Taoism and Folk Belief, and Ullambana 盂兰盆 in Buddhism. In Singapore, we often refer to it as the Hungry Ghost Festival (or simply 7th Month).


Cultural Significance of 7th Month Festival


The 7th Month Festival is an integral part of the several Chinese festivals celebrated in Singapore for many generations. Kelvin Wee shared that according to Taoist traditions, it is believed that all spirits are granted permission to emerge from the netherworld during each lunar 7th month to receive offerings from the living.



“But I thought you can pray and make offerings to your ancestors during other festivals?” might be a question in your head right now. You are not wrong. The keyword is ALL spirits. Here’s the difference: Unfortunately, some souls in the netherworld may not receive any offerings or essentials if they pass on with no close relatives or friends. Hence, as an act of compassion, these solitary souls, and those who are punished for their sinful deeds, are only allowed to enter the living world during each lunar 7th month to accept offerings from the living. This includes the deceased of all generations and extends to all, not just the family ancestors.




7th Month Festival in Chinatown


So what are some happenings in Chinatown during this period? Typically, business owners come together during the 7th Month Festival to perform rituals and make offerings to the ‘Good Buddies’ 好兄弟 (a commonly used, friendlier and less crude term than ‘ghosts’) to make peace with them.


The organisers will gather their own members, and arrange their altar tables, prayers and rituals. One such altar table spotted around Chinatown this year was at Kreta Ayer Square, 5 Banda Street.



Chanced on this big 7th Month "Party" at Kreta Ayer Square. chimed Victor Yue. And he wasn’t kidding, it was a pretty huge set-up!



Sunny Lim happened to be there earlier and also shared what she saw there. This particular table of offerings, as you may have noticed, is short and seems to consist of items meant for children. And that is because it is meant for the souls of children who passed on early in life. During the 7th Month, the living would usually prepare a different section of offerings for these young souls and are deliberately placed closer to the ground out of consideration.



Not forgetting the big dinners and Getais held across Singapore! Highlighted by Victor Yue, the Chinatown Business Association held their 7th Month Dinner on 23 August 2023 along Smith Street.






Losing Traditions Across Generations


While the 7th Month Festival proudly holds onto its ancient roots, it also embraces the winds of change that sweep through the modern world. As Singapore evolves, so too does the festival. While some find a delicate balance between tradition and contemporary sensibilities, some simply let go of traditions.



If you ever need to buy offerings in Chinatown, do note this shop that @karen shared because “Cannot find on Google maps, this shop 玉兰亭香莊 on 5 Banda Street”. While the stall owners may not be tech-savvy, @gerlehdees noticed that their products are! Like many other Chinese Religious product shops, they carry some high-tech products like cars and phones too (made of paper, of course).


Entrance of People’s Park Complex in Chinatown Singapore making space for 7th Month Altars and prayers
Photo by Victor Yue


As the 7th Month Festival continues to weave its intricate fusion of tradition and compassion in Chinatown, it leaves us with a poignant reminder that even amidst modernity, the spirits of the past deserve a moment in the present. With each offering, prayer, and colourful lantern, we honour the bonds that transcend time and embrace the festival's evolution. Explore the depths of Chinatown's soulful celebration and experience the fusion of old and new that defines the essence of the 7th Month Festival.


This article is scooped by Scratchbac user @gerlehdees and co-written by ScoopAI. Expand to see disclaimer:


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