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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Phor Thor Festival 2011 [Hungry Ghost Festival] in Penang

Annually, my family will make offerings with regard to this festival both at the temples and at home.  My family will hold the prayers at home on the 19th day of  7th lunar month which has been a tradition for many, many decades.  Most families will make their offerings at the makeshift temples but we have it in the family home because we have an altar for 'Tai Su Yah' [King of Hades] in the house.  'Tai Su Yah' is a deity who guards and disciplines the roaming spirits when the Gates of Hell are opened during the seventh lunar month.  There is a long ago story behind why we have an altar for 'Tai Su Yah' in the house.  When I have the time, I will share with you some time later.
According to Taoist belief, the hungry ghosts exist in a separate realm where the beings suffer from great thirst and hunger that can never be satiated - a consequence of their bad karma.  To ease the sufferings of the hungry ghosts, Taoists make offerings on their behalf to the Three Jewels via the Sangha [monastic order] in the belief that merits accrued from the deed could be dedicated to the spirits so that they could have a better rebirth.
Some in the Chinese community have also traditionally offered items such as roast pigs, ducks, chicken, 'angkoo' [glutinous rice cakes], 'mee koo' [red-skin buns], 'huat kuih' [prosperity cakes] and 'mee sua' [longevity noodles] on the communal prayer altar for Tai Su Yah during the festival.
However, my family usually will prepare steamboat items and other items such as coffee, cans of beer, tea, cakes and fruits as offerings in the house.  A variety of joss papers will also be burnt as an offering.  Here are the pictures showing the offerings for this year's prayers.  After the prayers all family members and relatives will gather in the house for steamboat lunch or dinner. 
Right hand corner is the 'Tai Su Yah' Altar
Blueberry Chiffon, Oranges and Mooncakes are among the offerings
Steamboat Items
This has been the family practice for decades and how long this practice will be carried out, I am not sure.  Perhaps, with the new generations it will be more simplified or totally aborted.  Nevertheless, if this practice carries on year after year, it does serve as an opportunity for a gathering among the families and relatives.

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