Qing Ming Festival is a day where family members visit the tombs of the ancestors and take the chance to clean and sweep the resting area of their ancestors.
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Finding our roots
I've always known this festival as the dead festival. Or rather, the time of the year to pay respects to the deceased ancestors that now grace the space of their grave yards.
While my grandma was still young, she would go to the graves to offer food, sacrifices and offerings to her ancestors. But now she's so old, she no longer does it. Since my family is Christian, we too no longer practice this, neither do my cousins or aunties.
In my opinion, while it may be a Chinese customary, it is a pity that it is slowly dying out. While the old believed that blessings could only come to them when they prayed to their ancestors, the younger generation labels such rituals as farce and refuse to take part in such 'silly acts'. True, I don't do it too, but at least I understand the origin and bother about remembering something like this.
One day will we all lose our roots to our Chinese culture, having been so exposed to the Western culture?
Other than Chinese New Year, this was another festival that my family would gather when I was younger. Many years ago, when I was still schooling, my mother would bring my brother and me back to Malaysia to "clear the tombstones".
Most of my uncles and aunties would also be there and my cousins would also be there. It was almost like a CNY gathering. The purpose of this festival was for the younger generation to pay respects at their ancestral tomb stones and while there, they could also help to clear the weeds around the tombs. We would also prepare a lot of good food to pray to the ancestors. After the prayer, we would be able to eat the food.
It is a tradition to respect.
We will wake early and go to the columbarium in Bishan on this day to pay respect and give prayers to my maternal grandparents and paternal grandfather. As a young child,I never really questioned why we should be doing that but I'll just follow my parents each time. Days before Qing Ming, my mother will prepare the incense and the big bags of incense paper to bring for the burning after the prayers.
In my younger years, I would freaked out each time we had to walk the narrow aisles to the urns and will have a very uncomfortable and spooky feel in the columns. The columbarium would be packed with people and got really smoky and spooky in the past years with all the burning incense sticks. But recent years, they have prohibited people from carrying incense sticks into the columbarium and this makes the visits so much better - at least I can see the faces of my grandparents on the yellow urns clearer and know that I'm facing the right urns when praying.
This festival makes me realised how people in this modern world still remember our ancestors in the nether world who had played a part one way or another in our lives. It gets quite heartwarming somehow.
A tradition we have to keep
When I was still a kid, I dreaded going for Qing Ming because I had to wake up at the wee hours of the day to head to the graveyards. I knew little of its significance but was forced to go for it anyway. Now than I’m all grown up, I realize just how much this day means and how the responsibility lies in me to keep the tradition alive.
Seeing my parents and relatives pay respects to my ancestors, I am reminded that I would not be the man that I am if not for these very people they religiously pray to.
Even as each and every young Singaporean go about pursuing his or her dreams, I think it is still important that we remember the people who have made this possible for us.
A meaningful tradition to remember our ancestors
Qing Ming Festival is a major occasion for my dad's side of the family. One Sunday morning every year, we'd rise abnormally early to gather before 5am and travel down to Choa Chu Kang cemetery to pay our respects to my paternal grandparents. We always went early to avoid the jams and the heat, and also because my grandfather is (was?) a morning person, I think. The adults (my dad and his siblings) would get everything ready before the day - the food, the joss paper offerings, torch lights ... My uncles even scouted routes to avoid the jams. It's a time when many Chinese contribute to global warming by burning huge mounds of joss papers (the more the better).
What I like best though, is how even though our grandparents are gone, this simple act of paying our respects still gathers our whole family together. After we've finished "visiting" my grandparents and granduncle, we usually adjourn to someone's house for lunch and to enjoy good food.
Sadly, I think it's almost time for my grandparents' graves to be exhumed (just like my granduncle's) and I know the experience will just be really different in a columbarium.
I'm not sure if my generation will uphold this tradition. Everything so far is always prepared by my uncles and dad. We kiddos just go along and do as we're told. However, I think it's a really meaningful tradition and I hope to learn more about it so as to be able to continue our practice and pass it on.
Paying the deepest respects to our ancestors
The Qing Ming Festival have always been regarded with much importance in my household.
I remember my whole family, including my extended relatives, would wake up before dawn, and prepare to head to my grandfather's tombstone to carry out the annual cleaning for his graveyard.
I went for the cleaning of my granddad's graveyard just once, (don't blame it on my lack of filial piety, I simply can't wake up in time) and came to a heartwarming realization that many others were on their way to the graveyard as well. There was a huge traffic jam along our way.
I sincerely hope that such meaningful festival shall be continued to follow up by our younger generation. It shall be a pity if the festival is no longer existing as time passes. The respect for our ancestors must be paid, and traditional values and cultures should be passed on.