Tourists visiting Singapore for the first time will be in for a treat this time of the year. The whole nation is in celebration mood and the atmosphere is electrifying. All over the island, they will be treated with myriad street performances on makeshift tentages. Performances are free and all are welcome to these events. For those more gung-ho, go for the prosperity auctions held in conjunction with these performances. Those more fortunate may be treated to free dinners too. Encounters with massive bonfires would be a bonus. In August, Singapore splurges on festive events like the National Day Parade graced by the Head of State and the whole cohort of parliamentary members. August is not the time to miss these great events. But be sure not to stick to the touristy areas only. Go to the heartlands to see the real stuff that tourists often miss.
Getai – The Street Shows
Getai (Simplified Chinese: 歌台) is translated from the Chinese phrase meaning “song stage”. It is a local jargon for a street show performed on temporary structures erected in parks and cordoned-off streets. You don’t see them during normal times. Getai sprouts up all over the island only during the month of August. To be more precise, during the Lunar 7th month which normally coincides with the Gregorian month of August. These are free performances. Do stand around to watch or find a empty seat if there’s one. DO NOT rush and occupy the front row empty seats (see picture left). That row is reserved for VVIP. You cannot see them, but be assured they are being occupied.
The performances vary. Some shows feature traditional Chinese operas. These are real treats. Chinese opera is a dying art and it is not easy to find such a performance anymore. Make show you locate one such show which money cannot buy now. For the younger and more upbeat type, the modern getai performers will give you real zest. Performers of all ages, wearing tight and skimpy outfits, concoct a medley of pop songs to get your heartbeat pumping (watch video).
Food is ubiquitous and plenty at these getai shows. Some places may offer free food, you just got to be sure. If you notice sumptuous food laid out before an altar, REFRAIN from rushing to the buffet-like tables. The food is NOT meant for you, but for unseen visitors. You don’t want to be competing with those that eyes cannot see!
The Utimate Auction
At the end of the show, an auction is usually conducted. You are welcome to bid for artifacts to bring home as a coveted souvenir. They are supposed to bring you “good luck”. All kinds of articles are offered in the auction. Charcoal, figurines, urns and small charms like mirrors are common items being auctioned. Auctions can be fast and furious. Auction bids can escalate into dizzying levels. If you desire to bid for a clamoured item, watch your heartbeat in case you get into a seizure. The picture on the left shows a SGD$100 urn that went for SGD$258,888 in one auction (Asiaone News). Whatever your belief is, be very cautious in acquiring any of these artifacts as they are all “spirit-imbued” items. You may be bringing home more than you asked for.
The Grand Finale – Bonfire
The event closes with a grand finale bonfire. This is the highlight of the evening’s event. Even though Singapore would be celebrating her independence day, this particular bonfire is not to celebrate Singapore’s independence. There is more to it. Fiat currency (hell money, but not much different from USD) and paper items are burned into eternity. Paper cars, houses, luxury items are pooled and sacrificed in the mother of all bonfires. Everything is now back to a mount of smouldering ashes. If you have enjoyed your day, take a long stroll back to your abode. You have just witnessed a “day in hell”.
If you wake up the next morning wondering if you just had a dream? No, you have just participated in the celebration for (with) the Hungry Ghosts. They have left their abode in hell and you have just spent a wonderful evening with them. Hello Halloween – you are no match.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.