Monday, April 5, 2010
A Holy Day
Today is an important holiday celebrated amongst the different religious faiths across the world. Not only it is Easter Monday for the Christians and Passover for the Jews, it is also the Ching Ming Festival for the Chinese. Although Ching Ming has not been observed as a public holiday in Australia or Singapore, it has played an important role for all traditional Singaporean Chinese. I remembered my mother took this observance seriously in her lifetime. Like many believers of her generation, it was a combination of elements of Chinese religions: Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, whose followers believe that the dead continue to live in the dangerous underworld while they are on their way to the Western Paradise ( 西天).They also believe that the dead continue to influence the lives of the relatives, thereby the living have a lifelong obligation to help their ancestors on their journey to paradise by making sacrifice such as burning large stacks of joss paper money called "hell bank notes" and paper replica and effigy of car, house, phone, television and even computer. They hope that their ancestors will show their gratitude by keeping them healthy, making them rich and granting them sons (incidentally her wish was granted, she was blessed with six sons and three daughters). Remembering and honouring the dead at Ching Ming, most family would visit to spring clean the grave and normally takes the form of trimming the lallangs, cleaning the grave site and putting a new coat of paint on the engraved writings on the tombstone. Food and flowers are usually brought along as offerings to the dead. As a child, I couldn't wait for the the ancestor worship at the grave site to be over, so that the whole family would be feasting the food and drinks they brought for the worship.
Like many Overseas Singaporeans it may not be practical to visit and pay respect to one's deceased ancestors and family members to reinforce the ethic of filial piety, I could only cut some flowers from the garden and placed it in front of Mum's photo. She understands.
Light from darkness! Life from death!
Dies the body, not the soul.
From the chrysalis beneath
Soars the spirit to its goal.
Richard H. Newell.