Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hungry Ghost Festival 2007

Sign for free bumboat ride this festival! Taken on 25 Aug 2007

Every year during the 7th lunar month, the Chinese community celebrates the "Hungry Ghost Festival" where it is believed that the gates of hell are opened for spirits to visit Earth for a limited one month period.

This time is also when the denizens on Earth will put up shows to entertain the ghostly "good brothers" (好兄弟). Traditionally, we have Chinese Opera performances like the ones on Pulau Ubin but increasingly these have been replaced by modern variety stage shows called "getai" with loud costumes and techno music.

Pulau Ubin remains one of the rare places which still maintain a permanent free standing wayang stage structure. Wayang is malay meaning "show" but in Singapore it is used to mean "play or opera" as well.

A wayang notice for Pulau Ubin from 2006.

In order to find out when there are Teochew opera performances on Ubin, look out for these handwritten calligraphy notices on red paper, usually on display at the Ubin Jetty. Sometime, similar notices will be stuck on the side of the stage to announce when the next events will be held. Performances are made not only during the Hungry Ghost Festival but also during the birthday of Tua Pek Kong (a deity worshipped at the temple in the town center). Unfortunately they are always in Chinese so ask a resident of Ubin and they will be able to tell you what you need to know.

Somebody asked if the performances on Pulau Ubin were Teochew or Hokkien opera and I just realized that the answer was already given in my post about the performances from 2006! I must have bombarded my mom for the answer last year but she made no complaints when I waylaid her for an answer yesterday. She explained that a large majority of the population on Ubin were Teochew and that explained why the wayang was staged in Teochew.

This year, to entice more people to go for the wayang performances which will be held on the 15th and 16th day of the 7th lunar month, the hungry ghost festival committee of Ubin have kindly arranged for free boat ride to and fro Ubin! That explained the sign in the photo at the top of this post which was found at the Changi Point Ferry Terminal! Roughly translated it reads:
"Free Bumboat Ride
The [Ubin] Hungry Ghost Festival Committee, during the 2 days celebration period of 15th and 16th day of the 7th Lunar Month (27th and 28th August 2007), will be providing free boat rides to and fro Changi Ferry Terminal and Pulau Ubin during these times:
From Changi to Ubin: 6.30pm - 10.00pm
From Ubin to Changi: 7.30pm - 11.30pm"
The committee is usually made up of residents, businesses and even past residents who return yearly to organize and fund raise for the performance and celebration of the Hungry Ghost Festival. As such, this year, I've managed to persuade my mom to return with me to watch and join in the Hungry Ghost Festival celebrations on Ubin. Hopefully we will be there on Monday to bring back more photos and stories to tell.

Related articles
  • Sons of Ubin keep tradition alive, by Kor Kian Beng, The New Paper, 3 Sept 2004
  • Account of wayang performances on other occasions on Ubin, by Victor Yue, Focus Ubin Website 2005
  • Pulau Ubin Zhong Yuan Hui by Victor Yue, Focus Ubin Website 2005
  • Hungry Ghost Festival Celebrations, Pulau Ubin Stories, 9 Aug 2006
  • Where have all the wayang stages gone?, Good Morning Yesterday, July 2007
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