Ghost month, other beliefs
In the Chinese lunar calendar, Aug. 22 to Sept. 19 of this year is “Ghost Month.”
According to Chinese tradition, this is the time of the year when ghosts and spirits, including those of departed ancestors, come out of the depths of the earth to roam the world.
For the unhappy and troublesome spirits, the occasion may present an opportunity to bring trouble, misfortune and ills to the living.
To the superstition’s believers, the month coincides with the assassination of former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, the hostage killing of several Hong Kong tourists in Manila in 2010, and the destruction of some parts of the country in 2013 due to “Habagat.”
Because of the supposed presence of evil elements during this period, people are advised against making major personal or business decisions, or doing things that involve some elements of risk.
On the personal level, these include refraining from tying the knot, taking long trips, building or renovating residences, and buying expensive properties.
For business people, this means desisting from starting new businesses, entering into big ticket transactions, making significant purchases, or moving to new offices. In other words, they have to hibernate until the assumed jinx blows over.
If any of these activities has been planned for the year, the antidote is to do it before or after the Ghost Month; otherwise, the activity may flounder or fail to accomplish its objective.
In other words, it may suffer from bad luck or, to use the local dialect, baka malasin.
Although this folklore is generally observed by the Chinese community, it has gained traction among many Filipinos. The acceptance may be attributed either to the strong Chinese influence on our society, or the Filipinos’ disposition toward animistic beliefs or traditions.
Some market analysts have observed that, during this period, sales of capital goods tend to go flat, few constructions are started, and stock market transactions are generally low.
Nonbelievers, however, attribute these incidents to seasonal fluctuations in the pattern of domestic trade and commerce, and not to roaming spirits of departed Chinese.
To some extent, the Filipino counterpart of the Ghost Month is the illumination of the moon.
For some Filipinos, significant personal or business activities should be started during a full moon, not when it is in its first or last quarter. A full moon is associated with good luck.
Talking of good luck, many Filipinos engaged in the retail business observe certain practices that supposedly attract it.
Buying on credit at the start of business hours is taboo or should be avoided. The first sale has to be in cash. And once the money is received, the notes should be waved like flags and made to touch the other goods on display. The gesture is meant to transfer the luck of the initial purchase to the rest of the unsold merchandise.
Payment of debts is also governed by certain timing requirements. It should be made only during day time, never at night; otherwise money would flow out of the coffers continuously.
Perhaps, the most popular practice of inviting good vibes in a newly opened business is the throwing of coins after the ribbon cutting or blessing of the premises.
Aside from making money the first entrants to the business, the sound created by the coins is supposed to drive away the evil spirits that may be hanging around the area.
Some local superstitions or beliefs may appear silly or incomprehensible to the uninitiated, but, as most Filipinos would say when asked about their observance, you don’t lose anything by following or accepting them.
Besides, they provide a welcome break from the stresses of modern living.