There are many misconceptions and taboos surrounding the lunar 7th month and more often than not, the lunar 7th month has often been portrayed by the media (movies, dramas, news and etc.) to be a very scary month. Now, I must say this, there is no such thing as the, “hungry ghost festival”. If you do a literal translation of “hungry ghost festival” from English to Mandarin, it is 饿鬼节, and it makes no sense to have a festival whereby we celebrate “hungry ghosts”. Furthermore, many people mistakenly believe that the entire seventh lunar month is the Zhongyuan Festival 中元节, which is incorrect. The Zhongyuan Festival 中元节 specifically refers to the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, just as we wouldn’t say the entire eighth lunar month is the Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋节.

However, yes, hungry ghosts do exist but not the celebration of it. Thus, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify and share some thoughts from a Taoist perspective.

The following is a literal translation from what a Taoist Priest has shared in Mandarin and I have taken the liberty to share it here:

The 15th day of the seventh lunar month is known as the Zhongyuan Festival 中元节 in Taoism. It marks the birth of the Earth Official Deity 地官大帝, one of the Three Officials 三官大帝 in Taoist belief. In Taoism, it is believed that the Heavenly Official 天官大帝 bestows blessings, the Earth Official 地官大帝 forgives sins, and the Water Official 水官大帝resolves difficulties. Therefore, Taoist priests usually offer vegetarian meals on this day to pray for forgiveness for departed souls. In Chinese folk tradition, there is also the custom of ancestral worship and seeking forgiveness from the Earth Official 地官大帝 for the sins of ancestors. It is a day to honour all departed spirits.

The Three Officials

The custom of worshipping the Three Officials 三官大帝 dates back to ancient China when the emperor performed rituals to worship the heavens, the earth, and the waters. However, over time, this tradition has taken on a more eerie and terrifying tone, perhaps influenced by the popularity of horror movies in the 1970s and 1980s. Thus, tracing the origins, you might find significant differences between the ancient and contemporary observances of the Zhongyuan Festival 中元节.

What is the belief in the Three Officials 三官大帝 about?

The birthdays of the Three Officials 三官大帝 in Taoism are the 15th day of the first lunar month (Shangyuan Festival 上元节), the 15th day of the seventh lunar month (Zhongyuan Festival 中元节), and the 15th day of the tenth lunar month (Xiayuan Festival 下元节). Their status is highly revered in the hierarchy of Taoist deities because they are believed to oversee the three realms of heaven, earth, and water, maintaining balance and dispensing rewards and punishments.

The Zhongyuan Festival 中元节 also has its roots in ancient worship of the heavens, earth, and waters, which were considered essential elements for sustenance.

Hence, the Three Officials 三官大帝 were seen as the deities governing human fortune and misfortune.

As early as the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 CE), there existed the “Three Officials Handbooks 三官手书” for confession and repentance in the Zhengyi Dao of Taoism. The “Records of the Three Kingdoms: Biography of Zhang Lu” 三国志·张鲁传 explicitly states: “Write the names of the sick, express the intention of confessing sins, make three copies, send one to the heavens, place one on a mountain, bury one in the ground, and sink one in water; these are called ‘Three Officials Handbooks’.” “书写病人姓名,说服罪之意,作三通,其一上于天,著山上,其一埋于地;其一沉于水,谓之三官手书。”

This practice involved writing three confession letters, asking for forgiveness from the heavens, and hiding them on a mountain, burying them in the ground, and sinking them in water. These documents, known as “Three Officials Handbooks,” 三官手书 were offerings to the Three Official Deities 三官大帝.

During the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912), there was a saying that “Zhongyuan 中元 sweeping is even better than Qingming 清明.” Families made various types of offerings to their ancestors during this time, while Taoist temples held rituals to rescue spirits and light lanterns to guide them.

In essence, during the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912), the focus was on ancestor worship and salvation of souls. However, Chinese folk culture evolves over time, leading to complexity and changes.

Influenced by horror movies and drama shows, many individuals are unfamiliar with the Zhongyuan festival 中元节 and might even find it frightening. This fear of the “ghost month” in the seventh lunar month has led to a variety of “tips for good luck and avoiding misfortune” and related merchandise. However, whether these are based on religious texts or rooted in culture requires a wise interpretation.

In reality, the Zhongyuan Festival 中元节 is more about Chinese people honouring their ancestors and remembering them. It’s a day for chanting scriptures, offering food, and praying to the Earth Official 地官大帝for forgiveness and transcendence of sins. In Buddhism, the Ullambana Festival 盂兰盆节 is also significant for practicing filial piety. Buddhists make offerings to the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) and dedicate the merits to the well-being and longevity of their parents and ancestors. It’s a ceremony to help the departed find their way to a better afterlife.

Regardless, it’s essential not to forget the spiritual significance behind these festivals. For instance, the Zhongyuan Festival 中元节 is a day to honour the divine and ancestors, and we should approach it with reverence, not fear.

The seventh lunar month also features the beautiful story of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl 牛郎织女, so July isn’t necessarily ominous; it can even be considered a romantic month.

How Should One Make Offering During the Lunar 7th Month?

  1. Be considerate towards our environment and neighbours when burning offerings.
  2. Burn smaller amounts of joss paper to reduce smoke and ashes.
  3. Please clear up your offerings after prayers.
  4. Consider joining communal prayers in nearby temples.
  5. Burn responsibly, please don’t toss or scatter the joss paper.

Multicultural Singapore is no stranger to diversity. Since the beginning of the country’s post-independence history, Singapore’s mainstream school system has sought to accommodate the needs of the country’s ethnic Chinese, Malay, and Indian populations. This has proven to be a remarkable undertaking given that most of the world’s school systems practice systemic forms of cultural chauvinism that elevate one group over others.

However, there is a growing realisation that Singapore’s publicly funded schools, while already diverse by world standards, may not be keeping up with the growing cultural heterogeneity that has resulted from the country’s leading role in globalisation. Thus, there has been an increased demand for educational options that offer even more diverse learning environments.

Compellingly, there is plenty of evidence supporting the benefits of a diverse educational background, particularly in early childhood. In particular, a meta-analysis of educational diversity studies by The Century Foundation, a New York-based think tank, associates student exposure to a variety of different perspectives with better learning outcomes. Here are some of the many benefits of diverse learning backgrounds according to current scientific understanding.

Diverse Learning Environments Help Build Confidence

Putting students from an outsider culture in a homogenous learning environment may impair their self-esteem and consequently degrade their ability to overcome various challenges. School systems that encourage diversity can help students from various backgrounds maintain and cultivate their self-confidence, ultimately allowing them to pursue their development on their own terms.

Students in Diverse Communities Feel More Understood

The feeling of being understood is important for a young person’s sense of identity, mental health, and ability to become a fully formed individual. This is especially important for young children of expatriate families, as many will struggle to fit in the kind of environment present in local school systems meant to accommodate native cultural diversity.

Fortunately, Singapore is now home to a variety of international schools that offer a wider multicultural experience that’s appropriate for children in the expatriate community. Expat parents can easily now find choices for an American school in Singapore as well as schools catering to other nationalities.

A Multicultural Environment May Stoke Lifelong Curiosity

The underlying sameness of a homogenous school community can often lead children to make assumptions that their experiences are universal. This may, unfortunately, make them less curious about their surroundings than they would be, otherwise.

On the other hand, children in a diverse school community will often develop a curiosity about cultures different from their own. Once developed, their curiosity will often manifest in other parts of life, providing a firm foundation for their intellectual development and academic success.

An Education Steeped in Diversity Teaches Inclusion

Students who have contact with peers and educators from backgrounds different from their own may develop a positive attitude toward inclusion. A positive perception of inclusion is highly beneficial as it helps mould children to be accepting, respectful, and empathetic individuals. This can help them profoundly later in life as they interact with people from different social and cultural backgrounds.

Diversity Helps Young Children Learn How to Socialise Appropriately

Individuals who have a homogenous cultural upbringing often struggle when they’re placed in different social and cultural contexts. Education in a safe multicultural environment can do much to mitigate these kinds of challenges. Children who frequently interact with peers from different cultures are often better at understanding different social norms, making them more capable of navigating a wider set of social situations. Thus, children who have inclusion as one of their values may be better equipped to thrive in an increasingly globalised environment.

Children Feel Safer in a Diverse School Community

Children from outsider cultures often feel less safe expressing themselves in a homogenous learning environment, as their differences can be misjudged and make them targets of bullying. In contrast, a diverse learning environment may allow students to be true to their own cultures without fear of negative consequences, making it easier for them to develop a positive attitude toward learning.

Diversity Sparks Creativity

Being part of a diverse community exposes children to different ideas and more ways of doing things. The increase in the number of potential inputs makes it easier for children to draw unexpected connections when they generate their own ideas. Additionally, diversity allows for more cross-pollination of different ideas, potentially creating a richer pool of ideas and further stoking more creativity in the school community.

Multicultural Education Helps Prepare Students for the Real World

It’s often said that school environments do not resemble the real world, and this is much truer for homogenous learning environments. Without frequent exposure to people from diverse backgrounds, students can develop a skewed view of the world around them, which may make it more challenging for them to thrive outside of their school.

A more diverse learning environment, on the other hand, can help students acclimatise to divergent value systems and thought processes, making it easier for them to understand experiences outside of school. This makes it easier for them to build positive lasting connections with others from different social and cultural backgrounds.

There Is Strength in Diversity

Diverse school communities bring together children and other individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, creating a rich and engaging backdrop with which to frame educational experiences. Having your child enter a school with a culturally and socially diverse community is likely to not only help them academically, but also assist in their holistic growth, moulding them into tolerant and outstanding individuals even when outside the school system.

In the design of green spaces in the metro, benches have bigger roles than one might think. They are vital for ensuring overall comfort, promoting meaningful conversations and adding aesthetics for many people to enjoy. These seats provide much-needed respite from standing or walking around outdoors, and they also actively contribute to creating a pleasant atmosphere.

Nowadays, more counties are choosing concrete options over wooden ones. Not only do they look great, but they are also durable. Below are some amazing facts about them that you might find interesting.

Where it Started?

Nothing compares to the charm of free benches where one can sit on. They can serve as solace when you seek out a moment of rest in public places. It’s also both an invitation to talk to others and, at the same time, an area where you can experience solitude. You can see more about the kinds of benches on this site here.

In the 1630s, Boston, Massachusetts, pioneered the concept of city parks. Following this development, many US towns adopted the idea so that they could be used by their inhabitants. Today, these urban and greenery spaces have evolved into something even more incredible as they serve as natural havens in otherwise densely populated metropolitan areas. Furthermore, they preserve nature’s beauty in many cities.

Nowadays, these seats are an essential part of many strolling grounds. They provide a place for people to socialise or enjoy some time away from home. These seats can be custom-made and there are ready-made ones that can be placed in recreational gardens at a moment’s notice. Professional manufacturers can provide them in bulk for a more uniformed look, handle the installation process, and conceptualise the design so that they would be more appreciated by the public.

Selecting the Right Outdoor Furniture

1. Looks and Aesthetics – It’s not ideal to select a piece of furniture that does not blend well with its environment, and this is something that you shouldn’t have to put up with. Fortunately, with the concrete park benches, you’ll get comfortable features that have classic looks. They don’t need to be maintained, and they are ideal for a more contemporary design. Select the ones that will go well with the architectural setting in plazas. You can also put them near the fountains.

The colours should also fit well, and the style is important. The overall look might be challenging to quantify but know that selecting the right benches is totally up to your tastes and preferences.

2. The Relief it Provides – Not all seats can provide comfort, especially if they are made from stone. The best ones are custom-made, with slight angles leaning towards the back of the seat to make it comfortable for many people.

3. Whether It’s Worth It – Knowing the cost of a new furniture can be tricky. However, they generally range from $120 to $1500, and it all depends on the design, size, and materials used. Do also set a budget for the furniture and the installation. Researching online is key for finding what’s available so you can make more informed decisions.

Considerations for Those Planning to Buy

It’s essential to select the ones made from concrete because they are heavier in weight and they can withstand rains and snowstorms. When you want more support at the back, use wood composite. Though the textures and colours can be changed, you can also leave the raw cement as it is for a more brutalist effect.

Consider concrete the best option when you want something that will resist decades of wear and tear. They can last for years regardless of the weather. Even without bolts and foundations, they are tough to move. However, they can become very hot on a sunny day, so it is ideal for them to be placed under trees or in other shady places. For more information about concrete, check out this link:  

Size also matters, and nowadays, you’ll find that the average person is about 4 ft. to 6 ft. The construction should specify that this furniture is to be used outdoors and do determine if you need a back and armrest for it. A good height should be around 16 to 20 inches above the ground, and its placement should not interrupt pathways in the park. The installation must be done on a solid foundation, and there should be accessibility for people with mobility issues.

You might wonder why so many people are participating in community projects like building benches in parks. These outdoor seats offer community cohesion and can significantly improve one’s mental health. These amenities also make it more attractive to hang out, whether you’re interested in the view, shade, nature, culture, or playgrounds.

For the 5.6 million people who live in Singapore, home reflects a connection to a community and the continuation of time-honoured practices and memories. Exploring these unique and intimate connections is at the heart of My Community Festival (MCF), a ground-up community event from 5 to 21 August 2022.

Organised by the non-profit organisation, My Community, with support from the Singapore Tourism Board, the third edition of the festival centres on the theme of ‘My Home Sweet Home’ and will give festival-goers exclusive access to the private spaces of the many communities in Singapore, including their homes, workplaces, places of worship, and communal spaces. This year’s programme will also spotlight three neighbourhoods which will become “festival villages”, and feature workshops and thought-provoking tours that allow visitors to discover more about the area’s history and uncover hidden gems.

This year’s line-up is the biggest, with 64 unique and riveting tours and experiences split across eight programme series. Each programme will be led by a member of the community who can bring different perspectives and understanding of home and community as they share intimate memories and knowledge about their personal spaces.

This year’s anchor programme series is “My Home, Truly”, which pays tribute to the different types of homes in Singapore. Tour participants will get to meet various groups of people ranging from foreign workers, animal shelter workers and students who will take them to the places where they lay their heads in. Participants can look forward to visiting spaces including a foreign worker dormitory, Singapore’s last kampung, and rental flats in Jalan Besar to hear heartwarming stories about creating homes out of these diverse housing types.

Kampong Buangkok with Kyanta Yap

This year’s festival also includes several new programmes that provide perspectives on how people keep memories of home alive. For people who hold on to broken items for sentimental value, “Find My Fixer” offers participants an opportunity to restore them to their original state or find a new lease of life while doing their part to live sustainably and reduce waste in Singapore. This includes workshops with a soft toy “doctor”, kintsugi artist or teaware design for ceramics, and even a stained glass rescuer. The programme also offers an opportunity to meet Singapore’s own version of Marie Kondo, Amanda Ling, who can help revive spaces with the art of decluttering.

Teaware Designer Alvin Ng

Festival goers can discover how expatriate communities recreate pockets of their home to form unofficial enclaves like Little Belgium, Little Philippines and Little Taiwan under “My Little Singapore”. Besides learning about their culture and their recommendations on where to find the most authentic taste of their hometown cuisine, participants can take the chance to reflect and appreciate how these communities contribute to Singapore’s identity as a melting pot.

Another programme, “What’s for My Dinner?” takes it a step further by having members of 20 Singaporean, ASEAN and international families, welcome visitors into their homes to serve up cultural dishes ranging from local fare, regional cuisine from Thai and Vietnamese food, to international flavours like African, Maharashtrian and Northern Chinese food.

Another new aspect of the festival is the introduction of three festival villages as part of the “My Lovely Neighbourhood” series of programmes. For each of the three weekends during the festival duration, the festival will spotlight a locale in Singapore to learn about its thriving community through a series of immersive tours, workshops, experiences and performances that are a result of My Community’s extensive community mapping exercise within these neighbourhoods.

My Thailand Dinner with Mita Kelder

For the first week, festival-goers can head to the quaint seaside town of Changi Village to get acquainted with its wartime history and the variety of shops and eateries. This is followed by a focus on Singapore’s largest motor repair village, Alexandra Village, which is also home to well-known hawkers and unique craftsmen like rattan weavers to glass installers; and lastly, the iconic Chinatown, where visitors can immerse themselves in the unique shophouses, discover the various clans’ associations and the mouthwatering food available.

Hello! My Alexandra Village

Each festival village will feature three unique self-guided tours that can be accessed through My Community’s community map, comprising a main storyboard and wayfinding signages, allowing visitors to explore curated trails that capture different facets of these neighbourhoods. On the days when the festival village is running, visitors are encouraged to speak to the community stakeholders with stickers on their storefronts and get to know them better and attend co-curated workshops to get up close and personal with their trade.

Returning favourites such as Welcome to My Island Home, My Prayers and Practices, and After Hours @ My Community, have also been refreshed to align with this year’s theme, offering new and returning festival-goers an opportunity to discover the best that the festival has to offer from previous editions.

Welcome to My Island Home: Discover the gems out of the city in a morning walk along six offshore islands led by ex-islanders and hear the stories of their beloved island communities. On top of visiting known islands like Pulau Ubin and Kusu Island, look out for special tours to visit transient islands like Pulau Hantu, and an exclusive tour into the Pacific Light Power Station on Jurong Island.

My Pulau Hantu with Richard Kuah

My Prayers and Practices: Singapore is home to individuals of different races, languages, and religions. From the Jains and Zoroastrians to the Jews and Theravada Buddhists, join us on a journey to the places of worship of all 10 major religions in Singapore and learn about their cultures and practices. Additionally, there are private tours showcasing home-based rituals such as Seventh Month rituals at a shophouse, Eng Tiang Huat, and Baháʼí devotees introducing how prayers and practices are conducted differently in their homes!

Hougang Dou Mu Gong with Dr Ji Ling

After Hours @ My Community: The city never sleeps with our unsung heroes keeping Singapore going at night while the rest of us sleep! Join in on a night walk around the spaces including Bukit Brown Cemetery that comes alive at night, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of some bustling hotspots, including Mandai Wildlife Reserve and Jurong Fishery Port.

For more information, visit

When you think of England, you might immediately think of Buckingham Palace, English Breakfast Tea, and a refined way of life. However, if you scratch beneath the surface, you soon start to realise that there is a deep-rooted issue with homelessness; with one in every 200 people in England without a home.

According to statistics released in December 2019; at least 280,000 were homeless over Christmas in a country with a population of just under 67 million. In contrast with the United States of America, where figures show that 567,715 people were living homeless in 2019, that rate of homelessness is considerably higher. You are statistically more than twice as likely to be homeless in England than you are in the USA.

Why Does England Have Such a Problem with Homelessness?

There are many reasons behind the problematic rate of homelessness in England, with local authorities suffering cuts to budgets as well as many businesses facing uncertain futures due to the United Kingdom exiting the European Union. The breakdown of a relationship, such as a marriage, is also seen as one of the main causes for someone becoming homeless – with the break-up of a unit that may have only just been making ends meet with two sources of income going their separate ways.

London is where the biggest problem can be found with the capital city accounting for more than 60% of the country’s overall population, with 170,068 registered as being homeless. That means that one in every 52 is without a home living in one of the richest cities in the world. This can almost certainly be put down to the inflated cost of living in London compared to the rest of the country, with the average Londoner expected to pay around twice as much rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre than they would for the same in Manchester city centre.

It is nothing out of the ordinary for capital and/or major cities, where the cost of living is inflated compared to other areas of the country, to have high rates of homelessness. To see this, all you must do is look closer to home, where the state of District of Columbia (DC) has a rate of 94 homeless people per 10,000, considerably higher than second-placed New York’s 46.4 per 10,000 population.

What is Being Done to Tackle the Issue

With so many local authorities such as councils having their budgets cut, much of the work that is being done to tackle the issue is being carried out by charitable causes. Citizens are volunteering their time to work in shelters and donating anything that they can to help make someone that is homeless as comfortable as possible. Other charities are working on behalf of the homeless to secure temporary accommodation in hostels and B&Bs, as well as apartment spaces.

The lack of having a permanent address presents difficulties when trying to find work or claim benefits that they might be entitled to. There are also many local businesses that offer services either for free or at a discounted rate for the homeless. When you consider some of the little things that you might take for granted, such as access to a shower, a washing machine and being able to get a haircut that someone who is homeless does not have, you soon realise how even just the smallest gesture can make a big difference.