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10 THINGS ABOUT THE HUNGRY GHOST MONTH

1 The Hungry Ghost Festival, also known as the Mid-Year Festival (Zhong Yuan Jie), is when the Gates of Hades open for the spirits to roam the living world.

2 The Chinese pay their respects to deceased relatives on the 15th day of the Chinese seventh month.

3 "Ho heah di" ( good brothers in Hokkien) is an euphemism for the visiting spirits.

4 Organising committees are formed by grassroots bodies, merchant groups or residents. Members pay an annual fee, which is used to buy items like rice, noodles and other necessities used as offerings to the spirits.

5 Committees hold auction dinners to sell auspicious items, which include the "huat chye lor" (prosperity urn) and "or kim" (black gold), a decorated piece of charcoal. The money raised is used to pay for the dinners and getai shows.

6 Front-row seats to the night's entertainment, be it a getai show or traditional opera performance, are left unoccupied and reserved for the spirits.

7 Expect more than 10 singers and about 40 songs at each getai, which cost between $3,500 and $10,000 for a three-hour show.

8 Over 60 per cent of the songs sung at getai are in Hokkien. But committee members come from all dialect groups and races.

9 About 80 per cent of the 150 or so getai singers are from Singapore, with the rest from China, Malaysia and Taiwan.

10 Singers are not guaranteed a time slot on stage - it's first-come-first-to-perform. Some sing at multiple venues. That's when the singers "pao tai" (literally translated to "run stage") and dash from stage to stage across the island.