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10 August 2010

National Day and the Hungry Ghost Festival

So I reached the 9 August which in Singapore is National Day, the day in which Singapore celebrates its independence.  Singapore gained its independence in 1965 and so this year they were marking the 45th year. 

For weeks now the streets, buildings, blocks of flats and so on have been covered in Singapore's flag all in preparation for the big day.  There have also been several rehearsals for the parade and it is clear from seeing this build up and watching the parade on television that Singaporeans are immensely proud of what they have achieved.

Unfortunately tickets for the event sell out months beforehand but to be honest I think it is one of those things that you get the best view of by watching it on TV, though I'm sure actually being in the stadium must be an amazing thing.  I did however have the best of both worlds, the parade included some of the Singapore military jets doing a fly past and they flew right past our flat on their way to where the parade was happening.  This probably isn't that hard to do as the island is relatively small but it was weird hearing the jets on TV and outside at the same time. 

As well as being watched by many lucky Singaporeans who got tickets it is also attended and watched by the Prime Minister and the other ministers in the Singapore government and the parade itself consists of fly pasts and march pasts, a show of music and dance illustrating what Singapore has achieved and should be proud of and culminates in a massive firework display.  Which again I could watch on TV and see from our balcony at the same time!

It really was an impressive parade and as an outsider something that I think the Singaporeans should be rightly proud of.

The 10 August then saw the start of the Hungry Ghost festival this year.....the what I hear you say and that was my response to!  I knew it was approaching but wasn't exactly sure when it was or what exactly it involved.  However on a trip out today I noticed outside our condo block some dishes of food and drink on the grass verge and some incense sticks stuck in the ground.  Asides from one of the local stray cats taking a bit of an interest in the dishes of food no one else was around to indicate what this was for and why the food had been left there.

The festival, I have since discovered, is celebrated by the Chinese and marks the day when the souls of the dead are released to walk the earth for feasting and entertainment.  The Chinese community place offerings of food on the street (which explains the plates of food outside our flats) and they also light fires burning effigies of worldly goods such as houses and cars and they light incense sticks.  In addition to this the Chinese community also lay on Chinese street operas and other events to keep the restless spirits happy.

I guess it is similar to us celebrating Halloween and no doubt, as the time when spirits are said to walk the earth, continues until the 7 September I am likely to see more offerings before this period is up!  I hope I do and that I may also get a glimpse of the festivities and entertainment as well.

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