Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hungry Ghost

August is a very religious month here.  With the mix of cultures and religions there seems to be nonstop festivals.  The two big celebrations this month are Ramadan, for the Muslims and the Hungry Ghost Festival for the Chinese.  We are fortunate to live next to a mosque, where we hear Call to Prayer 5 times a day and on a street with a very prominent Chinese community.  Diversity abounds and tolerance is plenty.

Last week, our neighborhood set up two makeshift stages to celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival.  During the 7th lunar month, it is believed that the gates of Heaven and Hell are opened and the ghosts are free to wonder back to Earth looking for food.  During this time, people set up an effigy to the King of Hedes and offer him food and prayers, which are then shared with the wandering Ghosts.  In addition to leaving food and alcohol "to feed" the ghosts, the Chinese also have traditional Chinese Operas and contemporary music at night to entertain the ghosts and living. Giant joss sticks are burnt throughout the festival.  At the end of the festival, people offer paper money to the King of Hedes and then burn the effigy.  Pretty interesting!  To read more about this festival click here: Hungry Ghost Festival Penang

Eric and I had a birds eye view to the entire festival on our street.  At night, we could hear the Opera and live music in our condo and we couldn't avoid walking and driving past the stages.  It was pretty cool.  We joined the neighborhood for the burning of the King of Hedes.  It was probably the quickest burning bonfire we have ever seen.  Here are a few pics from the festival.

Paper statue standing in a pile of money about to go up in flames.

 Opera and stage setup on our street.

Food and alcohol offerings set out for the ghosts

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