These souls are “hungry” from their imprisonment in Hell and once on earth, they ravage it in search of something to satisfy them. This is an unlucky time for the Chinese. People refrain from taking risks and keep a low profile during the Hungry Ghost festival.
Items like food and money on the ground must be left intact as taking them will anger the spirits who may exact revenge if they believe you are stealing what belongs to them. Many will also avoid swimming or water-related activities because they believe ghosts are attracted to the water element to replenish their ‘yin’ energy.
Many customs are carried out in order to satisfy these hungry spirits. The burning of paper money, or hell currency, is especially prevalent. It is not uncommon to see people burning mock paper cars, houses and all forms of luxurious items to these ghosts, who will ‘receive’ these gifts in the spiritual realm upon their burning. Food is also offered along with the paper items.During this time, performances staged to ‘entertain’ these spirits can be seen in Chinatown and around Singapore.
Street operas and getai (small singing performances) are performed on a make shift stage. The audience can sit and watch these performances on rows of chairs that are set up, though the first few rows are left empty for the real VIPs – the hungry ghosts. The Hungry Ghost Festival has been celebrated for hundreds of years and is one of the most important Chinese festivals in Singapore.