It's the annual Chinese Ching Ming Festival (aka Qingming Festival). It happens every 106 days after the winter solstice. Most people call this holiday 'grave-sweeping day' because people head to the cementary to clean graves.
There are many Ching Ming rituals which include pulling out weeds around the headstone, cleaning the stone and replacing wilted or dead flowers with fresh ones. People also burn incense and paper money. The paper money is for the deceased to use in the afterlife. You'll even see food arranged on headstones, it is an offering to the spirits.
Other rituals include family members pouring wine on the grave. 3 sets of chopsticks and 3 cups of wine are always placed on the headstone of an ancestor on Ching Ming. Legend has it that unhappy spirits wander the earth on Ching Ming Day. It's considered bad luck to do important business or have an operation on that day.
I went with my Dad to buy some paper offerings for my grandparents before heading to the cementary. I was amazed at the variety of paper-made goods you can get for your deceased loved ones. There were laptops with view-cam (so scary!), Rolex watches, hi-fi systems, SLR cameras, branded clothes, fashion accessories.... even 'canned food' and beer! You can even give them mahjong sets, cards and dices, complete with tokens. Wow, can open a casino leh!
Dad went to collect a couple of paper dolls. He had them made-to-order. They will be burnt and sent to my grandparents to serve them in the other world. They already had 3 pairs. They also had a double-storey house and a Mercedes car - courtesy of yours truly.
Dad was telling me to get a bigger house for them next year. He said their 'present house' will be too cramped when the others 'go down'. And it's cheaper to buy now as prices are raising every year. And they could rent out the old house. hehehe....
The shopowner enthusiatically offered to show me some models. There are so many to choose from, and sea-side bungalows too! Wah, they could also have a yacht in their own backyard. So luxurious! I think I could afford a luxurious life when I die.
I joked to the shopowner that I would like to have a 10-storey office building and he quickly sat down to make calculations and then gave me a quotation. I need to patent this because he will definitely offer it next year.
I was quietly laughing to myself as my Dad was in awe of all the offerings in the shop. He believes in a second life - the life after death. I told him to learn to use the computer now so he can msn us everyday. No need to appear in our dreams and scare the hell out of us. hahaha....
The shopowner's wife recommended me a great gift for my grandparents - sharks fin, birds' nest and abalone gift-pack!!!! muahahahaha...... my grandparents got no teeth!
Do you celebrate Ching Ming? What will you be offering to your ancestors on this day? Let us know!