Saturday, April 09, 2005
Ching Ming Festival
April 5th was a holiday for the Chinese. It is called Ching Ming Festival or otherwise known as “Remembrance of Ancestors Day” or “Grave Sweeping Day”. It is a fairly major holiday here. Banks, government offices and many business close. The filippino women, who are domestic helpers, also get the day off. We mention this because it is very obvious when they have the day off. They congregate in large public spaces in the center parts of the city. They basically have an all day picnic on the sidewalks. They lay out blankets, set up stools and proceed to talk on their phones, gossip with each other, eat and even do needlework. In any one area, there could be at least 100 women sitting together. Outside of holidays, the only day of the week they get off is Sunday. It is on these days that you will find them congregated around town!
Anyways, Shelly had heard of the Ching Ming Festival through the AWA and we wanted to see how the Chinese celebrated it. We knew there was a cemetery close to our place so we got on the bus and took it to the bus stop right across from the Chinese Christian Cemetery. Talk about masses of people! There were police directing traffic, sidewalks were blocked off we even had to wait in line to cross the street. Everyone was carrying flowers and small bags of drinks and take-out food.
Once inside the cemetery there were stands to buy more flowers, soda and bottle water. We tried to look inconspicuous as possible but I don’t think we did a very good job. We were not carrying flowers and everyone knew there was no way we had ancestors buried there! As we made our way through the cemetery we saw people washing the headstones with soap and water and brushing leaves and dirt from the graves. Large gatherings of family would hang out at the graves and spread out a picnic including 12 packs of beer! (Bert, sounds like your kind of party!) We found this to be a very interesting part of their Chinese culture. We have learned that funerals are a big deal with the Chinese. It is not uncommon for $500K to be spent on a funeral.