Today marks the first day of Hungry Ghost Month. On the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, which is September 5 this year, Chinese people, at least in Malaysia and Singapore, will celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival.
The Hungry Ghost Month is when the gates to the Underworld open, giving the ghosts reprieve for a time to wander the earth, and visit the living. Because ghosts don't eat in the Underworld, they are, as one might expect, hungry, so now is a really good time to feed the supernatural myriad. We will leave food out with our prayers overnight, inviting the ghosts to eat. It's good karma to feed the hungry, whether alive or dead.
It's also a very exciting time! There will be a lot of live shows, and the first row of chairs will be empty to make way for the ghosts so they can watch. Back In The Day the shows used to be traditional Chinese opera; nowadays they can be more contemporary entertainments, like live performances or stripper shows (because, you know, ghosts can still appreciate the sexy).
It's also a spooky time! Because the dead walk among the living! During this month, we are cautioned to walk with care, especially at night, because you never know what ghost is out to prank you.
What is especially exciting for me this Hungry Ghost season is that my latest short story, "The Last Cheng Beng Gift" will be out next month, in September! Cheng Beng, or Qing Ming, was actually in April--it's the time when we visit the graves of our ancestors and clean their graves. If they have passed recently, Cheng Beng is also the time to burn joss money and other joss things that family members may want in the afterlife, like a house, or clothes, or, these days, high-def televisions and laptops.
I'm honoured to say that "The Last Cheng Beng Gift" will be in Lightspeed Magazine. I wrote it in Week 1 of my Clarion workshop under Kelly Link. It is about a Singaporean matriarch in the Underworld who receives a strange gift from her wayward daughter: a coupon to a fish spa! Joyce Chng and I made a pact to each write a fish spa story, so this one is dedicated to her. (You can read her fish spa story in Rambutan Literary #4!) Although it is centered around Cheng Beng events, Hungry Ghost Month is also an important time in the story. The illustration will be done by Alan Bao, and I think it is really cool! So keep an eye out for a little Chinese lady gracing a magazine near you soon!