In the U.S, preparations for the Qingming festival are also underway in Chinese communities. Although many Chinese-Americans make the journey back home, an increasing number are choosing instead to bring their relatives’ remains to the U.S for burial. CCTV’s Rebecca Bowring reports from a cemetery in Colma, south of San Francisco.
Qingming Festival Observed in U.SIn the U.S, preparations for the Qingming festival are also underway in Chinese communities. Although many Chinese-Americans make the journey back home, an increasing number are choosing instead to bring their relatives’ remains to the U.S for burial. CCTV’s Rebecca Bowring reports from a cemetery in Colma, south of San Francisco.
Young and old pray together before the grave of a deceased relative. This Chinese family – restaurant-owners living in San Francisco – are remembering Ya Hua Lai, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. They bow three times…burn incense…and pour wine on the ground. Lisa Huang moved to the U.S. when she was 12. She feels it’s important to include her 7 year-old son in the ritual
“My kids never met her so I’m very happy to take that chance so they’re able to meet her and talk to her. Even though it’s not in person, I feel like they are talking to her.”
Family members also burn paper…it’s believed the smoke rises to heaven to meet the spirit of the deceased. They choose objects that could be useful in the afterlife…gold bars, paper money, a house, car, and servants. Qingming traditions in the U.S. are similar to those in China – although they vary by family.
Family counselor Anita Sit is writing the names of the deceased to display in tents in the cemetery grounds. Cypress Lawn is preparing for a weekend-long event that will welcome hundreds of Chinese visitors with chanting and blessings. Anita says that when it comes to observing the holiday, there’s a generational difference.
Anita Sit, Assistant Manager of Cypress Lawn, says, “Older people they’re more traditional versus the younger people. They don’t have the education, since they’re not raised in China, they don’t know the original culture, why it’s so important to us to respect your parents and your great-grandparents”.
And burial traditions are changing too.
According to Rebecca Bowring, with more than 3.3 million ethnic Chinese now living in the United States, for more and more of them it makes economic and emotional sense to bring the bodies of their loved ones here, to be near them.
And that’s exactly what Lisa Huang’s family did for her grandmother. She said, “We felt really bad because a lot of her kids and grandkids all here, so we figured it was just better to move her from China to here so we can every single year come and see her.”
The family packs up after the ritual…they’ll have a celebratory picnic at home…
Content that they have connected with their roots and honored the woman who made all of their lives possible.