Thursday, October 07, 2004

Hungry Ghost Festival

After living in an essentially atheistic country for five years, we are struck by how religion permeates the Singaporean culture. Everyone, it seems, believes in something. We live close to an area called Little India, which, as you might imagine, is filled with temples. Down the hallway my neighbor is really into Feng Shui. (if you've ever looked at a book on Feng Shui, you might come to the conclusion I did, which is that good Feng Shui translates into "aesthetically pleasing." You can spiritualize it if you feel the need, but your couch just looks better facing that way). Others practice Buddhism, Christianity, etc. but no one is void.

About a month ago, just when we arrived, Singapore was in the middle of a month long festival called the Hungry Ghosts Festival. This is a Chinese Buddist tradition, where they believe the gates of hell are opened and lost souls wander the earth looking for food. So people burn a variety of things to "feed" the ghosts.

During that time, Ethan noticed the numerous trash cans on the streets that were burning and asked why. It was a good opportunity to explain to him that people worship different gods, but that there is only one true God. He wondered why people would worship other gods, and we told him sometimes it's because they have never heard how much Jesus loves them.

Yesterday morning, when Erik left for work, Ethan said, "Daddy, don't forget to tell the people about Jesus, because i saw a trash can burning."


Chris B. said...

I laughed at the last thing you wrote. I imagined Erik walking down the street saying, "Hey buddy, Jesus loves you, so stop burning stuff." I wonder, what do they burn? It's also interesting that such a clean nation would allow trash cans full of ash-emitting substances to exist on its streets.

Gina Marie said...

They burn paper mostly, it seemed like. It's a special kind of paper, though, I forget what it's called. And they burn a lot of incense. You can still find lines of incense sticks stuck in the ground along the street. I think the government probably provides the trash cans so that people aren't just making their own fires everywhere - that's my guess.

Anonymous said...


How do burning trash cans fit into Feng Shui philosophy? Did you see the comercial where the Grandmother is in a hospital bed, and the family keeps bringing her back to life by moving the furniture. I wonder how the blind or handicapped feel about Feng Shui, or are they just spritually stunted. The whole thing reminds me of Ekencar (sp?)the religion of light and sound only that never made it on Opera.