X-Pro1 Diaries: Operas for Ghosts and Charcoal Auctions in Singapore

By August 22, 2012Fujifilm X-Pro1
backstage hungry ghost festival singapore

Loud music was blaring from the speakers, and amid the cacophony, the auctioneer was trying to outdo the noise by yelling yet louder into his microphone, attempting to hike the price up for a bag of charcoal in an auction of auspicious items supposedly symbolizing wealth. The price was at over $8000 for that said bag of charcoal at the time, with bidders goading each other on, believing that winning the bid would bring good luck for the year ahead. Backstage, performers was hurriedly changing costumes and preparing for the next act, the cramped space ensured lots of tangled elbows and any reservations on privacy very quickly went out the door.

The Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated by Chinese in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, believing that on the 7th month of the lunar calendar, the gates of hell are thrown wide open and the spirits free to roam the world, and dead relatives come a’visitin’. The living offer incense and food to the visiting spirits for blessings and thanksgiving.

A highlight of the festivities would normally be a huge outdoor dinner/auction/performance/opera known as a ‘getai’ organized by various clan associations and temples. A litany of performances from raunchy stand up comedy, opera performances, and auction of ‘auspicious’ items to raise funds for temples and various charities and even pole dancing, all liberally washed down by kegs of beer and copious amounts of food.

Quite a sight (and sound) to behold.

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