For anyone who hasn’t checked their lunar calendars—I certainly haven’t, strictly Gregorian, sorry—the seventh lunar month will be upon us in a few weeks.
From July 29 to August 28, to be specific, with the Hungry Ghost Festival falling on 12 August.
If you missed the suffocating burning incense from April (Qingming) or February (CNY), don’t worry, it’ll be back soon.
Joss Paper Prices Increasing By 10% or More
Besides rising energy and food costs, most of the products used as sacrificial offerings aren’t spared either.
There will be an increase of 10% to 15% for joss paper and related items.
Not to sound like a broken record but… The increased energy and fuel costs directly impact the shipping costs since those sailing vessels run on the black crap.
Add global inflationary pressures and fear of energy shortages to the economic equation and you have the shipping costs nearly doubling on itself.
It doesn’t really help matters that the oil prices directly influence the prices of candles and lamp oil, which have seen a price increase of between 20% and 30% on its own.
In a nutshell, everything is more expensive. If the shops don’t wish to close down their business, they need to make up for the costs somehow.
The easiest method is to raise the prices and push the burden of cost onto the buyers.
During an interview with Shin Min Daily News, Ban Kah Hiang’s Trading owner Mr Zhang echoes his helplessness over the situation as he’s left with no choice but to push up the prices.
Mr Zhang also noted that the majority of his clientele are elderly folks who are sensitive to price increases, so he’ll cap the increase at 15%, lest he wishes to drive off his customers.
Chye Seng Joss Papers & Joss Sticks owner Mr Wang speaks of similar troubles, stating that the cost of items has increased between 15% to 20%.
However, for the sake of retaining his customers during the peak seventh-month period, he has also decided on a price hike between 10% and 15%.
After all, if your competitor is selling the products at a cheaper price, customers are bound to go to their shop instead.
This is one of the reasons why I’ll never understand why joss paper businesses are lined up in the same row of shops.
Demand is Still Expected to Increase
In spite of the price hikes, many store owners are anticipating a rise in demand for joss paper and joss sticks this Hungry Ghost Festival.
According to the Oriental Daily, many industry players believe that more people will be taking part in the traditional practice, now that COVID-19-related restrictions have been eased.
Mr Wang, the owner of Ming Yuan Religious Products Pte Ltd, confirms this by stating that his store has began receiving orders from communities and organisations that are resuming their Hungry Ghost Festival activities.
It is estimated that the demand will increase by 30% to 40%, thus they have increased the volume of their store’s products by approximately 40%.
Mr Zhang has ordered 50% more products than last year.
He mentioned that some of his customers haven’t been able to conduct proper worship during the seventh month for two years.
Hence, many will be looking forward to make up for it. Several have asked him to follow their 2019 orders.
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You know, now that temples have moved on with QR code donations, maybe the Underworld should get a move on and start accepting PayNow too.
Nevertheless, burning “ghost money” is part and parcel of Chinese tradition and culture, as they believe that the deceased will receive the paper money that was burnt for them, and thus have a happy and prosperous afterlife.
Putting aside the carbon footprint of millions of people burning joss paper at the same time, we can’t simply toss away the instilled values of ancestral worship. After all, without our predecessors, we wouldn’t even exist.
Here’s a question to ponder upon though.
If the living has to account for inflationary pressures for how much paper money they are able and willing to burn, does the afterlife have to do it too?
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