Yesterday I was told that there would be a Chinese opera in Georgetown. It was supposed to be at 8 o’clock in some obscure location downtown. After visiting several locations I finally arrived at a large platform stage that I assumed would be for the opera. Excited — I asked about when the performers be showing up, only to find out there was no opera. Apparently it had already happened in the afternoon. Bad timing on my part. So I did the next best thing I just started driving.
Last night was the 15th of the seventh month in the Chinese calendar. This is a night when the most ghosts are released from hell and roam around. It’s on this night that the local Chinese burn all kinds of pretend paper money to keep these ghost content over the next year. Many of the bills are labeled “Hell notes”. Apparently, it’s not limited to burning money, small pieces of paper with images of clothing and everyday items like food, make up and even scissors tossed into the fire to keep the spirits happy.
While driving around looking for the nonexistent opera I saw dozens and dozens of small fires all throughout the city on what seemed to be on every street corner where people were burning their paper money. It was at one of these fires where I met Elsa, Mr. Goh and his daughter Kai Xin. Like every religious or cultural custom the tradition is passed down through the children. Last night I got to watch and photograph as Kai Xin learned how to appease the hungry ghosts. It was very reminiscent of my childhood of hiding Easter eggs and being all excited about what was to happen next. If you think about it, what child doesn’t like to play with fire?
(Click on the images to view it at full size.)
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