I was brought up to believe that the gates of hell will be opened during the seventh month of the lunar calendar. All the spirits are allowed to roam freely during this month. Many Chinese will be burning incense and praying to their beloved dead – parents, ancestors, relatives…and unknown spirits! The playground, pavements, walkways and lawns are littered with offerings of food and fruits and the cleaners will have a more difficult time to keep the environment clean.

Whether we believe in the existence of ghosts or spirits, it has become a Chinese custom in Singapore. Our government (town councils) has been trying to educate these worshippers to burn their incense in big oil drums provided by them. The diehards still follow the old way of burning and praying!

Strangely, I used to fall sick very easily during this month – from the very first day to the end of the month! Many of my friends gave different theories on the matter. Even when I became a Christian, I still suffered this malady! An old man (stranger) taught me how to avoid this bad omen during the seventh month. It was (is) a simple remedy. Wear a hat or cap when I am in the open. I followed that advice and strangely it did the trick. I have been putting on my cap whenever I go out during this period and since then everything seems fine and normal like any other month. I just don’t understand it!

I have tried to locate the old man to thank him all these years, but in vain. He seems to have vanished. My Buddhist and Taoist friends say that he must be a fairy who had come to my aid. I just take it with a pinch of salt!


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