THE HUNGRY GHOST FESTIVAL

Photo: https://pixabay.com/en/ghost-train-folk-festival-figure-2383952/
The Chinese Indonesians in Belitung usually celebrate a festival on every 15th of the seventh month of lunar calendar. This festival is called Sembahyang Rebut. It means that you may pick up or seize anything you like when the snatch ritual starts.

It is believed that the Door of Hell is open and the spirits of the dead are roaming everywhere. People always prepare the ritual offerings for the wandering souls in the hope that they won’t disturb human beings. If they are hungry, they will appear in your dream and seize your neck like that of a goose as what you have seen in the Living Dead movies.

The festival is celebrated at the temple where there’re a great number of worshipers join it. Besides that there are a lot of tourists who want to know the process of the festival. Most of the tourists are curious about what the worshipers will do in their festival.

On that day, a giant effigy is placed in the temple yard.  It’s a very scary one which has an ugly face, two staring big eyes and a long red tongue hanging out of its mouth. There is a big brush pen in the grasp of its right hand and a big sized book which remained open on its left palm. It is said that the Giant Ghost will write down all the crimes and wrong doings of every visitor. The paper and bamboo made giant effigy is about 3 or 4 meters high.

People go to the temple at six o’clock in the evening. Children feel excited to see the replica of a ship which has its captain, crews and passengers inside.

On the other side of the temple yard, there is a Judge of Hell sitting in the middle of a court and is surrounded by the court guards. They are all made of bamboo and coloured paper. The visitors burn joss sticks and joss papers, they hope the gods and goddesses of the temple will grant them good luck and a peaceful life.

When it is getting late, the smoke of joss sticks, paper clothes and fake money cover all the surroundings of the temple, more and more visitors are coming to join the festival. It becomes more mystical when the worshipers pray in a truthful manner inside the temple.

It is said that all the souls of the dead have had enough of their dinners at midnight. Then the snatch ritual starts and visitors pick up everything which is thrown down from the stands. Everyone can join to pick up what he or she wants, and it is believed that the visitors who don’t seize anything will be unlucky. Although they use all their strength and struggle hard in the ritual, they’re still able to control their emotions. That’s why there’ll be no fighting at all. Perhaps the mystical atmosphere keeps them under control.

After the Snatch Ritual ended, there is the burning ritual of the Giant Ghost effigy, paper made houses and ships. 

In Tanjung Pandan town, the giant effigy was usually taken to the beach before the new fish market was built. There was the show of Barongsai (lion dance) and singing on the stage. The monks prayed for peace during the burning ritual, to hope that the wondering souls would go back and live a peaceful life in the hell.

Nowadays, the worshipers usually burn the giant effigy in the temple yard.

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