Ching Ming means bright and clear in Mandarin. It is the annual grave clearing and paying honour to the deceased ceremony. The actual date falls on April 5th each year but these rituals can be carried out 10 days before and 10 days after the actual date. This is to enable families to travel far and wide to return to their ancestors grave.
Grasses are cleared from the graves and yellow and white papers are placed on the top. Sometimes, old couples buy a double grave and if one has passed away, there is space for his/her spouse. If the grave is ’empty’, then red and white papers are placed on top. People used to put pebbles on the papers but now, they have little colourful flags to poke on these white/yellow papers.
Favourite foods which the deceased used to like are brought to the graves as offerings. Filial children will lovingly prepare these foods and bought fruits etc for the deceased. Sometimes, if times are good, they will buy a whole roasted pig (can costs as much as RM500) for the offerings.
This little shrine here is the ‘thor tay kong’ or what the Chinese call, ‘the gate keeper’. After clearing the grave, placing the paper, arranging all the foods, the family will burn joss-sticks and ask the little old man here to give permission to the deceased soul to come for the feast.
Paper paraphernalias consisting of gold and silver, clothings and other stuffs are burnt for the deceased.
After all that, the foods are distributed for the families and sometimes,we even have picnics up there on the hill.
I am a Catholic and though I do not participate in the prayers, I do let my children partake in some of the things which are cultural like placing the papers on the grave and throwing confettis for their grandparents. Overall it is a loud and cheerful family gathering to remember and honour the dead.
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