A Family Affair

I always look forward to Qing Ming. This year it fell on 4 April (or is it 5 April?). I know that Chinese schools declared Friday a holiday. But most working people would visit their ancestors’ graves on a weekend. I never miss going for Qing Ming even though I have to wake up really early (missed last year’s though as my maternal grandma passed away).
This morning, I was up at 5.30am and reached my paternal grandma’s home by 6.15 only to find half the household still getting ready! As with all the years before, we were going to visit 3 ancestors: my great grandpa, my grandpa and my grand-aunt. Luckily all are located within the Mount Erskine area.
As it’s truly a family affair with some 3 generations attending (thought the numbers are fewer each year due to work and age), I can count on at least 3 car loads of relatives. One car-load are the family members of my 3rd grand-aunt’s son, the other car-load is my 5th grand-aunt’s son and the final car-load (or sometimes 2 car loads) consists of cousins, me, my sis, aunts and uncles. Or at least, those who still feel their achy knees can bring them up the tiny hill where my great grandpa’s grave sits.
With big families, only 2 major festivals see us all gathering in a bunch to catch up and share news. One is Chinese New Year and the other is this festival, Qing Ming.
Another major reason I wanted to go this time is to document the steps, yes, the steps of praying so that I will be able to take charge when the time comes to do so. I am more Buddhist than Taoist so certain Taoist practices are unknown to me. When I was younger, I never bothered much, assuming that my grand-aunt and aunts and uncles would be there all the time. Now I know that soon, my cousins and I have to take the lead. Otherwise, the upcoming generation may totally never find Qing Ming important at all.
That’s the pain pleasure sometimes of growing older. You start feeling responsible for traditions. I know I cannot let this pass and not do anything. It’s my link to my lineage which is a comforting thought (without my ancestors, I won’t be here and I won’t be even blogging about this). At least I think I seriously ought to make sure this tradition is not lost. Sobering thought even for a 10-minute leisurely Sunday hike up the hill to my great grandpa’s grave.
I already have some ideas how I can improve our rather haphazard ways of doing things (like have a checklist for food and non-food items). My aunts sometimes forget to bring along certain prayer items due to the last minute rush of packing food and joss.
Anyway, I’ll let the photos do the talking. Like all gatherings, we ended by having breakfast at Hai Oan kopi tiam along Burma Road and catching up on each other’s news. I think that’s usually the best part of Qing Ming, bringing together family!
First we pray to the local deity, offer him wine and huat kueh.
First we pray to the local deity, offer him wine and huat kueh

View from my great grandpa's grave
View from my great grandpa’s grave

Great grandpa looks fierce, right but he was a really sweet old guy
Great grandpa looks fierce, right but he was a really sweet old guy

Hell notes, money to be burned. Beware of counterfeit notes!
Hell notes, money to be burned. Beware of counterfeit notes!

Offerings to my grandpa
Offerings to my grandpa

Like a picnic at my grandpa's grave
Like a picnic at my grandpa’s grave

Lots of gold and silver ingots to be 'sent'
Lots of gold and silver ingots to be ‘sent’

Important: Joss paper must be spread open!
Prayer rule #1: Joss paper must be spread open!

How did you celebrate Qing Ming?

3 thoughts on “A Family Affair”

  1. I don’t think my ancestors recognize me. It’s always my brother and my dad (and sometimes mom) who goes to the cemetery. Well, I think I’ve been once, but I think I was too young to remember what happened. All I know is that there were loads of food involved. Lol. Yeah, somehow if traditions have to be passed on… I’d be a disappointment. Good thing I have my bro, though.

  2. Well, I don’t think my great grandpa recognises me since he last saw me when I was a seven year old. You’ll realize one day that paying respect to ancestors is something you’d want to encourage in your own children. Yes, food. Some people don’t like to eat the food that’s offered – they say their ancestors’ have ‘taken’ out its essence but my family, well, we dig into the sio bak, boiled eggs, huat kueh and fruit like noone’s business. In fact we kind of relish the idea of partying up there at great grandpa’s grave after the praying is over.

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