Ching Ming Festival

Ching Ming is the day to pay respect to our departed ancestors by visiting the tombs. It's an essential Chinese tradition even for the Chinese origin in Malaysia. It's my annual family gathering too! My friends felt strange to hear me saying 'family picnic' on a graveyard. They looked at me to find any trace of jokes on my face. Let me show you what we have always done. First of all, there will be few phone calls between dad and his brothers. Usually, there's no conclusion in the men's talk. It takes another few rounds of phone calls among their wives to confirm the day and the details. My dad has to do his countdown on cleaning the tomb before the big day.

The Ceremony Starts

The ceremony starts with the fire of life, the burning of incense sticks and candles — we invite them to join us.

We used two 50-cent coins to do Q&A with them.

The answer has to be either yes or no. Throw the coins onto the ground. If both coins were showing different surfaces, it means yes.

The question always is

— "Are you here?'

If the answer is no, keep throwing after few minutes!

The Offerings

We have roasted pork, dumplings, steam bread, Nyonya kuih and fruits as offerings. But Somehow they are more to our current taste. For example, we loved the nasi lemak made by my mum. It's our must-have food on the tomb.

Money is essential no matter where! We also burn other paper-made items as an offering. The offerings become creative each year. Clothes, shoes, car, house, mobile phone, even maid and pet. Whatever we could afford.

I know people would laugh at this. Trust me. We laugh at it too.

Our favourite jokes topics are all about imagining my grandparents receive the items. The shoes with the wrong size. The telecommunications operator that exists there, if there's any. What's the inflation rate after we supplied too much money like every other family.

How to fold joss paper

All those ready-made items only existed later. Traditionally, it was the family who made the golds or silvers from joss papers.

There are many types of joss paper. But the most common one is this rectangle A5 size with coarse texture. Gold or silver depending on the foil on the surface. They are sold in stacks.

The first thing to do is to spread the papers from the stack. Notice they spread out like a fan. This technic takes time to learn.

The second shape can be done earlier and kept nicely. Because it is stackable and easy to be transported. We always piled them as high as we can for burning. I found a video on folding joss paper.

When we think our grandparents have eaten, or when we feel hungry, we do Q&A again. Coins throwing session once more!

The burning marks the end of the ceremony. Finally, we get to eat!

Ching Ming is what my dad does his best for his parents. He is doing it because he is still able to do it. We, as his children, be there for him; and stand by him for the family. And why not? It's a fest!

Some of you might think why people care about Ching Ming. What is life after death? Or even if there's any. In what sense we are to believe the fortune and luck passing on to us from our ancestors. A more realistic question — how are we going to maintain the tombs in the years coming? Is it feasible to claim a space of this earth after we died?