S’pore ‘Freegans’ Collect Fruit Offerings, Taoist Priest Says It’s Okay After Joss Sticks Have Finished Burning

Apart from the unmistakable smell of burning joss sticks and paper, the sight of offerings like fruits and kueh in public spaces is another indication that the Hungry Ghost Festival is here.

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While most of us may not spare much thought about what ultimately happens to these offerings, a group of Singaporeans are committed to making the most of them.

On Thursday (3 Sep), a netizen named Daniel Tay took to Facebook to share how he and a friend collected 122 oranges in 1 night.

He also took the opportunity to share what he had learnt about the month-long festival. Read the post in full here.

Haul came on 15th day of 7th month

Calling themselves “freegans”, the group subscribes to the idea of minimising waste by retrieving and reusing discarded food and items, among other activities.

Smelling burning in the air, Mr Tay and his friend – who are Freegans – decided to go hunting for offerings on Wednesday (2 Sep).

That day was the 15th day of the 7th Lunar Month, when many devotees perform their prayers.

In total, Mr Tay and his friend’s efforts yielded,

  • 122 oranges
  • 2 pineapples
  • 2 apples
  • 1 bunch of bananas

Mr Tay and his friend’s ‘haul’ on 2 Sep
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According to the post, the pair had done the same the night before but seemed to have enjoyed less success.

Offerings deemed as ‘consumed’ after ritual

While taking such offerings might be taboo for some, Mr Tay wrote that perishable offerings like these that are used in temples are deemed “consumed” and “unwanted” when the ritual ends.

He added that these offerings are then normally distributed to people.

In the case of smaller-scale prayers, Mr Tay said that the offerings left behind are “unwanted by ghosts” once the candles and incense have stopped burning.

However, he warns that they shouldn’t be taken away when the incense is still burning.

When the ritual is over, Mr Tay explains that those who remove the offerings should “say thank you”, make a bow of respect, then proceed to use the items.

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Taoist monk says practice is okay

Retrieving these offerings for personal use is understandably a practice that may be contentious for some.

Hence, a member of the freegan community in Singapore decided to consult a Taoist priest about it, reported 8World News.

According to the religious leader, the offerings are considered “consumed” once the joss sticks stop burning, and they can subsequently be taken away.

He also elaborated that the practice is similar to how we periodically scavenge for items that others have discarded.

However, one must always remember to thank the “good brothers” before removing the offerings.

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Another freegan hoped the public would be more open-minded and understand that they are ultimately trying to reduce waste.

Aiming to strike a balance

While scavenging for 7th-month offerings may not be for everyone, one can be respectful of the differing beliefs of others even if one may disagree with the practice.

Perhaps what the freegans are doing may highlight the issue of food waste, and prompt us to discuss how to strike a balance between religious needs and reducing wastage in a resource-precious nation like Singapore.

What are your thoughts on freegans taking 7th-month offerings that are already “consumed”? Share them in the comments below.

Featured image adapted from Facebook and 8World News.