Not everything is strictly traditional about how the Chinese in Penang, Malaysia celebrate the Spirits of the 7th Month “Hungry Ghost” Festival.  Chinese opera—in either Hokkien & Teowchew styles predominate, & there’s the rare traditional Chinese puppet show to entertain the sudden population explosion of spirits walking around.  But the modern world has invaded tradition as well, and most locales celebrating the festival also include some modern-styled Chinese entertainment.

Everyone living near any traditional Chinese community knows that this is now the 7th Chinese month—that remarkable time of year known to many as the Hungry Ghost Festival. My closest local Chinese friend—a traditional religionist—insists that we stop calling it the Hungry Ghost Festival & more properly call it the “Festival of the Spirits of the 7th Month.”

I want to respect his wishes, but sounds like a mouthful! And in the meantime, everyone else seems to call it the Hungry Ghost Festival.

The Hindu Thaipusam festival is an astonishing event to witness in Penang, Malaysia.  In honor of their god Murugan, Hindus create huge & colorful kavadi or burdens that devotees then carry several kilometers to Murugan's temple.  Many of the pilgrims allow themselves to have many body piercings--even with large skewers piercing their cheeks and the tips of their tongues.  A few weeks ago I had opportunity to participate in Matt Brandon & Gavin Gough's Thaipusam Workshop.