Hungry Ghost Festival: Mystery Of The Falling Chopsticks

hungry ghost festival, seventh month, story, 七月, 中元节, 农历, 地狱, 故事, 盂兰节, 阴间, 鬼, 鬼节, 鬼门关, 鬼魂

The Lunar Seventh Month, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated by the Chinese around the world.

Some might confused this with Qing Ming (Tomb Sweeping Festival), when the living pay homeage to the dead; whilst during the Hungry Ghost Festival, the roles are reversed: it's the ghosts and spirits who paid visits to the living.

As Buddhists, my family do not celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival as true Buddhist teachings do not encourage the burning of material comforts (paper money, clothes, houses, etc) although we do worship the ancestral tablets at home with twice daily incenses.

Offerings of fruits, vegetarian dishes and kueh-kueh were placed on the altar for their enjoyment as we believed that they will leave the lower realm to visit us during this period.

No one knows for sure if they really do visit us or even "consume" the food which we, the living, have prepared for them but one incident that happened after the death of my Grandpa seemed to suggest that.

This story happened when I was around seven years old.

It was the seventh day after Grandpa's demise and according to Chinese beliefs, it's the day when the guards from hell would escort his spirit to visit his loved ones for the very last time.

We were still living in our old house then.

Mum was kept busy in the kitchen all evening, preparing Grandpa's favorite dishes so that he could have a feast and embark on his final journey with a full stomach.

After dinner, my siblings and I were ushered to my parents bedroom for the night.

On the morning of the eighth day, Mum discovered that the fried fish had been moved and that the eyeballs - a favourite of Grandpa's, were missing.

Did Grandpa really visited us the previous night and did he eat the fisheyes?

I was really young then and believed everything the adults said. How else would you explain the mystery of the missing eyeballs?

Now, why am I writing about all these? Simply because I wish to relate something that happened to me right on the very first night of the festival this year...

I remember the time was slightly over eleven o'clock and I was preoccupied with the computer in my room like always.

The neighborhood was exceptionally quiet that night; except for the ticking of the old wall clock, whose echoes rung in my ears.

All of a sudden, the rhythm of the ticking was interrupted by a sharp, crisp sound coming from the living room.

It sounded like something has dropped to the floor.

I thought it was Mum who had the habit to potter around the kitchen at night when she had trouble going to sleep.

Not long after, the same sound reverberated once more.

You know what they say about curiosity killing the cat?

Well, it happened to me.

Curiosity got the better of me so I opened a gap in the door, wide enough for me to steal a peep outside. My eyes briefly scanned through the living room with my gaze ending up at the kitchen.

My heart sank.

The kitchen lights were not on at all.

I went to check on Mum in her room only to find her sound asleep beside Dad.

At that moment, all I wanted was to be back in the safe confines of my room, with the door locked behind me (not that it would be of any use) but while on my way back, something got caught in the path of my foot which send it spinning across the living room.

It was one half of a pair of chopsticks from the ancestor's altar. The other half lay silently in the darkness, not far away.

How did they ended up on the floor? Was it the sound I heard earlier; one chopstick falling off from the altar followed by the other?

I was the one who placed the pair of chopsticks there that morning so why did it not fall off earlier? Besides, the chopsticks were squarish, not the rounded type therefore, the possibility of them rolling off is very unlikely.

This is not making any sense to me!

As usual, anything that is not explainable by logic will be associated with the supernatural.

Could it be a subtle hint from my Grandparents informing us of their arrival? Were they displeased with the offerings? Or is there something else that they wanted to convey to us?

I guess this is something that I would never have an answer for.

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