There’s more to the 7th Month Festival than meets the eye. When done right, it's a month of honouring the memories of the deceased.
“Scary? Not at all! When done right, it’s a month of honouring the memories of the deceased.”
For Yeo Soon Hock, there’s more to the 7th Month Festival than meets the eye. Our fellow colleague has been leading the annual celebrations for the past three decades, and does so for one last time before passing the baton!
Deeply rooted in Taoism and Buddhism, the month always starts with the burning of incense paper, joss sticks and other offerings. The festival is traditionally observed on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month (Aug 12) and lasts for 14 days. “The afterworld’s gates are open and spirits are released. Just like humans, they want food and drink. Providing these is a form of respect.”
Preparations usually begin the day before. Participating colleagues would give a small contribution that goes towards purchasing prayer packages; the rest of of the money is channelled towards filling bags to the brim with essential food items for colleagues to bring home. Soon Hock says the generosity shouldn’t stop with giving to the spirits!
“The spirits are not evil,” he emphasises, “but they don’t like to be ignored.” When ignored, mischievous spirits can affect all areas of a business’s peace and prosperity, so there are some staff at every FairPrice store who will observe the festival on the same day it is held at the headquarters too.
On the day, colleagues stream in to pay their respects to Tua Pek Kong (大伯公), the God of Prosperity; Tian Guan Da Di (天官大帝), the ruler of heaven who grants happiness; and finally the gods dubbed as Hao Xiong Di (好兄弟) or “The Good Brothers” that escort spirits into the afterlife. A whole roast pork is offered to these Taoist deities. You’ll also spot red skin buns (mi koo), candy, and some games to appease child spirits. There’s even a well-stocked paper toilet for all spirits to freshen up!
It all culminates with a communal prayer led by a Taoist monk. The dry food and fruits are laid on a mat, then thrown everywhere to nourish gathering spirits. “We send spirits back with the paper money we burn. It’s an essential they need in the afterlife! We see this as a good deed.”