Spirits can get their jab too

Quirky paraphernalia: Shieh showing his handmade ‘Hell Covid-19 Vaccine’ set for the Hungry Ghost Festival at his shop in Taman Ehsan Jaya, Johor Baru. He came up with the idea after reading heart-wrenching recollections of those who lost their loved ones before they could get inoculated. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

JOHOR BARU: With Covid-19 vaccination on most people’s minds these days, a prayer paraphernalia shop here has created handmade paper vaccines so that spirits in the afterlife can be part of the “vaccination” process too.

Shop owner Raymond Shieh said the idea came to him after reading many heart-wrenching recollections of those who lost their loved ones before they had a chance to be inoculated.

He said some of his customers also encouraged him to produce paper vaccines as they wished to give the items as offerings to their deceased loved ones as well as wandering spirits for the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival.

“I felt bad for my customers, who told me that they wanted to fulfil their deceased loved ones’ wishes of getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

“I decided to give it a go since I specialise in handmade prayer paraphernalia.

“It initially took me about two days to make a set with a large syringe and vaccine bottles to mimic the real items.

“After sharing the finished product on my Facebook page last week, I received a good response and orders for the ‘Hell Covid-19 Vaccine’ from customers in and outside of Johor,” he said when interviewed at his shop in Taman Ehsan Jaya here.

The 45-year-old added that the set, made from joss paper and other paper materials, would be burnt alongside hell bank notes in hopes that the deceased would receive them in the afterlife.

Each set costs about RM30 and can be customised according to the customer’s preference.

“I hope that my product can provide some peace of mind to my customers and help them fulfil their loved ones’ wishes,” Shieh added.

Shieh, who worked as a graphic designer in Singapore before returning to Johor Baru to start his prayer paraphernalia business about seven years ago, was thankful that his business had only dropped by about 10% during the pandemic.“I try to keep up with the times by updating my product designs according to suitable trends and occasions so that my customers will not get bored by the typical prayer items.

“There are many prayer paraphernalia shops in Johor Baru, so my products have to stand out from the competition.

“My customers usually appreciate my products, which gives me a huge sense of satisfaction,” Shieh said, adding that he also supplied his handmade prayer items to other shops.

The Hungry Ghost Festival is usually observed throughout the seventh month of the Lunar calendar, which started on Aug 8 this year.

During this period, devotees usually burn paper prayer items and give offerings to appease the wandering spirits and pray for good luck.

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