The Taipei Fire Department on Tuesday, the eve of the Ghost Festival offered four tips on how to safely burn paper ghost money.
As it is custom in Taiwan to make offerings and burn ghost money to commemorate ancestors during the festival, which falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month every year, the department reminded people how to observe the tradition in a safe way.
First, people should be extra carious when burning ghost money and prevent any paper that is on fire from drifting up in the air and causing damage, the department said.
Photo courtesy of the Hualien County Fire Department via CNA
Second, if firecrackers are used as part of the ceremony, environmentally friendly firecrackers are better, it said.
Some people light firecrackers to warn the “good brothers” (好兄弟) — a euphemism preferred by Taiwanese when referring to ghosts during the month — before they put the offerings away, marking the end of the ritual.
The gates of hell are believed to be open during Ghost Month, giving ghosts access to the human world, where they can look for food, entertainment and, possibly, souls. It runs from Aug. 19 to Sept. 16 this year.
Third, a thorough check of the site should be conducted before leaving to ensure that no ghost money has been left burning, the fire department said.
Fourth, when using isopropyl alcohol to disinfect hands, it is important not to do so near sources of fire, such as an incense or ghost money burner, the department said, adding that the container should also be kept away from fire sources.
In related news, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminded people of the importance of maintaining good food hygiene during and after making offerings.
When making offerings, food should be kept in containers with lids, or covered with plastic wrap, to prevent the food from being contaminated, the FDA said, adding that if the food is packaged, it is recommended not to poke incense sticks through the packaging.
The amount bacteria in the food offerings is likely to grow several fold during the ritual, as it often lasts several hours at room temperature or in the sun, the FDA said, adding that afterward, people must reheat the food to at least 75?C before consuming it.
Food that is not eaten promptly after the ritual should be kept in a refrigerator or at least under shade, it added.
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