清明節-Qingming Festival

清明節-Qingming Festival

Dear boys,

We went for our annual 清明 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qingming_Festival)  on Friday and this time, we squeezed into your uncle’s Honda Civic and made our way to the first stop, which was ChoaChu Kang cemetery. It was a messy place for the uninitiated, but there is a level of organized chaos. The place is quite massive, with rows upon rows of tombstones and graves, all tightly packed together. Your uncle U-Wei is an excellent navigator, and in no time we found our way there, last year, was a different matter, we have to circle a few rounds as your Ah Gong got the location wrong, no thanks to the confusion and crowds which descend upon that place annually for 清明.

P_20150403_082635 P_20150403_082113Choa Chu Kang Chinese CemeteryAlong the way, we listen to your Ah Ma tells us her 清明 experience, where she went with her dad on a pick up truck to a cemetery in Changi, the place has long been exhumed to make way for the living. She told us that Changi cemetery was even messier, and they have to walk over other people’s tomb. As Ah Ma’s dad will always do their 清明 in the evening, Ah Ma will always stay in the pick up to take care of her youngest brother, while her dad, with her eldest sis and 3rd sis will go and do theit 清明 ritual. You Ah Ma’s eldest sis, will always repaint the Chinese engravings on the tombstone as it will always fade off, due to being exposed to the elements. Her mum’s tombstone, was a lot larger and ‘spacious’ compared to the current one.

The one in Choa Chu Kang lies your Ah Gong’s mother, which is your mum’s Ah Ma, from what I know, she has always been nice to your mum. I didn’t have a chance to see her as she died in 1995, which would made this her 20th anniversary.

Our offerings to your Great Grand Mother
Our offerings to your Great Grand Mother
The 'block' number
The ‘block’ number

This time, your mum made Huat Kueh (发糕) for your great grandma, and the other offerings was as laid. fruits, flowers, coffee. The air was still quite crisp that morning as the burning hand’t really commence. we stood around for a while, while the candles and joss sticks burned, and when the time was ‘right’ we packed up and head off to another spot, Mandai Columbarium

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandai_Crematorium_and_Columbarium)

Long Traffic Jam!

Oh my, this year, the traffic jam was bad, up to almost 2 hours long, you both had a good long sleep in the car, me included! When we finally reach there, we were quite lucky to find a lot, all thanks to Ah Gong’s sharp eye for a good car park lot. we parked the care without much hassle and headed to our descendants’ duties.

Mandai Columbarium
Mandai Columbarium
Another block from Mandai Colambarium
Another block from Mandai Colambarium

It was quite a massive place, where all the urns are place in niches. Your Great granddad’s urn is placed in ‘Camelia’, row 315. which means it is on the third floor, which mean 3 flights of stairs, for your Ah Gong, who recently had a knee operations.

By the time we reach there it was past noon and 清明 festivities are already in full swing, it was hot, crowded, noisy, messy and a little dirty. The rows are tight and everyone was trying to make their offerings to their respective niches. Some brought chairs, little tables so that they can put their joss sticks and candles, we didn’t and choose to place them on the floor. Your mum made another Huat Kueh for your great granddad as well

The Niches
The Niches
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good folks burning their offerings to their ancestors, all the heat, smoke and ashes, were all trapped on the third, topmost floor!
The Urn
The Urn

The columbarium was more unbearable, the ashes got into every part of our hair, cloths and nostrils, the smoke irritated our eyes and throat, the trapped heat was unbearable, despite of all that we still have to make it, pay our respects, for without our ancestors, we will not have today. They may be long dead, but as far as we can help it, we have to go and do our due diligence.

This is what 清明節 is all about, while we continue to build our new, and look into our future, we still have to remember our past, we have to remember those people who are dead, who made choices in their lives then, so that we can have what we have today. This annual ritual of cleaning the tombstone, and making our rather arduous trips to far fetched lands to see the tombstone, and the niches, right now, the both of you are too young to understand. By the time you both are old enough, I hope you can see the value of 清明節 and continue acknowledging our forefathers while you surge ahead into the future.

Published on: Apr 5, 2015

Our First Night 清明節-Qingming Festival

Our First Night 清明節-Qingming Festival

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Dear Boys,

This years 清明節-Qingming Festival is rather unique because your uncle U-Wei wants to do a night one, so that we can beat the crowds we encountered last year. (you can read more here http://wp.me/p3qQYz-8C).

We toyed with the idea of 3am, your mum said no, 2am, your mum said ‘no’. Finally we decided on 12 midnight, and from your grandparents’ place, we set off in your uncle’s MPV, 6 adults and 2 kiddos! To our night adventure!

We have a few hypothesis in the car, we were thinking will there be people? Will it be deserted? There were stories exchanged in the car that there are some friends we know who does that, there are people who does that all these years, all these times.

So what we are doing is not actually new, but doing it for the first time is still pretty darn exciting for us!

When we reached, lo and behold! There are people! Well, not many, but enough to make a crowd.

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There’s people! HUAT AH! they shouted!

The road was a little difficult to navigate in the dark, but your uncle U-Wei did well, and brought us to the spot. He parked and we are there!

With flash lights out, light sticks out, we made out way to your great-grandma’s spot and did our prayers. There was a bit of a confusion over the huat kueh, as we were wondering where did ours went, since we threw away the one there was there since morning.Your grand dad’s siblings came earlier to offer their prayers.

Anyway while that was being sorted out, your uncle has to go and take a dump, nature’s call at the most ungodly hour!. We were trying to figure out where the portaloo was, our lights couldn’t pick up the usual silhouette of a mobile toilet, so he has to go off to look for one, I went with him and, eventually the whole tribe went, since Wayne wanted to pee as well, leaving your grandma, grandpa and Ah Kim at the tombstone.

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Portaloo’s right around the corner…

So we got back after all the business is done, and began to absorb the night scene, it was about past 1am, and there are still people streaming in. There were bonfires from burning of hell notes and other paper stuffs for the dead. The scene was hardly eerie, in fact it was a welcoming relief from the mid day heat, traffic jam, and crowd. It felt so good that we wanted to do this as a SOP.

I think the idea is good, we have very bright torches, and there was a bit of moonlight. I’m a person quite accustomed to the dark and would actually preferred the light to be off.

Once we have offered our prayers, we decided to head off, careful to watch where we are stepping and without much of a hiccup, we got back to the car.

Mandai was our next stop, and like Lim Chu Kang, the crowd was sparse. We found a parking lot with no problem. Had we come during the day, finding a parking lot IS a problem.

Anyway we made our way up to the third floor where your great grand pa’s niches is located. This time we came prepared with masks to deal with the smoke and fumes. It wasn’t so bad this time around as there were less people, so less burning. There was ample space, for us to lay our offerings to our ancestors. There was no squeezing, people moving around people, jostling here and there. We can take our time, and it was actually quite a nice change

 But by the time we reach there, we are already quite tired, but we still made our way to Jalan Kayu to have a bit of prata supper before heading back, by the time we hit the sack it was 4.27am, and we slept for almost the whole of Sunday, only waking up about 2pm.

What a night adventure it has been!

(P.S. the huat kueh, we thought was there since the morning, was actually brought there by us. The morning folks didn’t bring any huat kueh. We placed it there, and the next moment we threw it away!)

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Not eerie at all, it was rather comfortable.