Sunday, April 4, 2010 | By: BlackGargie

Day of the Dead

Today I had my first Ching Ming celebration in Brunei with my hubby and my in-laws. It was pretty interesting, to say the least.

The last time I had Ching Ming was once when I was in Taiwan with my grandma to visit my great-grandparents' tomb on my grandma side, in which I was awaken for no particular reason, not told why the early bird and stood aside watching them do their thing, and that was in 3rd grade.

I would've taken pictures if not for the fact that it wouldn't be nice to show such disrespect to the dead (and probably also the fact that I might end up taking pictures that wasn't supposed to be there), so you'll just have to rely on my writing skills to picture it.

To those who don't know, Ching Ming is a Chinese tradition day where you go to the graves/tombs of your ancestors and do a major cleanup on it, then give offerings and pray to them as a sign of respect. It's almost similar to the Day of the Dead in Mexico, according to my Irish friend when I described it to her.

We woke up really bloody early in the morning at about 4.30am (or was it 5), because according to tradition, it is always this time that is the best to visit the tombs. Too late and it'll be dark soon where the ghosts starts roaming; too early and it wouldn't be good because of all the yin that overpowers the yang during the witching hour.

My mother-in-law advised us to wear long sleeves and long pants because of the heat, but I didn't have any long pants (in the laundry) or long sleeves, and besides, a little sun never really hurt anyone. I needed it anyways, what with me being an almost hikikomori (recluse). We were so bloody sleepy when we went around getting ready for the journey, and I could barely keep my eyes open!

The tombs are located down at KB, so it's an hour-long drive there, and I took that opportunity to sleep my head off, though not exactly a most restful one. We soon reached at one of my father-in-law's relatives home as a rendezvous point for all other family members, and met some pretty much familiar faces, including the one who resides in KK.

From there, we drove all the way to the Chinese cemetery, where we had three graves to visit: my great-grandpa-in-law, my grandma-in-law and my grandpa-in-law, all from my father-in-law's side. First we did the cleaning up, meaning plucking out the weeds and brushing the grave stones, then the elders laid out the food and the prayer candles, first starting off with the God of Earth before laying more food for the ancestors themselves. I forgot when did the grandpa-in-law passed away, but the great grandpa-in-law passed away in 1968 while the grandma-in-law passed away in 1991 according to their gravestones.

After laying the food, they started giving out joss sticks, three for each. Then we all prayed based on seniority: the elders first, then the young adults (which is us), then the kids. My hubby and I prayed together. I didn't know what to say really, just waving the joss stick up and down, but the only thought that crossed through my mind was "Hi, new member of the family here, so spare some blessings, aye?" I know it sounds corny and stupid, but that was the only thing that came through my mind.

After that it was the burning of offerings. We started off by burning paper money (not real money, mind you, it's hell notes, money of the dead), then burning paper clothes and shoes (there was even cars and a cane in the mix, LOL), then finally the "gold" ingots, which actually lets out a yellowish smoke when burned. Once or twice I almost got singed by the fire, and numerous times I got smoke in my eyes and nose, and ended up coughing and crying through the burning. Meh~! And adding with the hot temperature was not exactly helping.

Everything was completed at roughly 11.30am. Mother-in-law said it was an improvement compared to the previous event where it usually took them almost till 1.30pm to get it all done. Once we went back to the house to rest and have lunch before coming home, I literally konked out on the couch, falling asleep almost immediately all the way till lunchtime. We didn't really feel like showering at the house even though we did bring a change set of clothes just in case, but because of the elders being the jabber mouth they were, we still ended up going home late, probably around 2.45 and finally reached home sometime almost 4pm, in which I took a long nap till 6 something before taking that shower.

All in all, it was an interesting experience. Thankfully this is only once a year thing, coz I'm not exactly inclined to do it anytime soon~! XP