GEORGE TOWN: Families observing the Qing Ming festival have started visiting cemeteries and columbariums for the annual tomb clean-up and remembrance of the departed.
Knowing that these places tend to be packed on weekends leading up to the actual day, which falls on April 5 this year, many went on weekdays to pay respects.
Those living out of state had not returned for the festival during the Covid-19 pandemic, turning the festival into a reunion of sorts.
Among them was retired teacher Tan Lean Sen, 56, who is originally from Penang, but now resides in Kuala Lumpur.
Tan said she did not have the chance to return frequently, so for the occasion, she brought her parents’ favourite food as offerings to honour their memory at the Batu Gantung crematorium.
“Chicken curry was my mother’s favourite while I remember my father liking char siu bao (pork buns).
“We also bought a variety of food and prayer items as offerings.
“My father passed away in 1997 and my mother passed away in 2021,” said Tan, who was accompanied by her husband as well as both sisters.
They were among the thousands who converged at the columbarium and graves at the cemetery on Wednesday.
At the Batu Lanchang cemetery, 43-year-old company director Evelynn Ang brought her parents to the graves of their ancestors after skipping the ritual for the past three years.
“My parents run a restaurant in Klang, which leaves them with little time to travel.
“During the movement control order, they were unable to visit the graves.
“As the deceased, who are my grandparents and uncle, have been buried for over 10 years, we are not obliged to visit on the actual day.
“To avoid congestion, we came early and treat it as a family gathering as well,” said Ang, who was there with other relatives.
Engineer Benny Khoo, 41, also observed the festival on a weekday as he believed many would take advantage of the weekend to conduct prayers for the departed.
“I took leave and came back from Kuala Lumpur just to be here for the annual festival with my other family members and relatives.
“I want to avoid the crowds. For sure, the weekend will be full of people observing this festival,” he said when met at the Batu Lanchang Cemetery.
Qing Ming, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is a 2,500-year-old tradition where Chinese families clean grave sites to commemorate their ancestors.
The occasion is usually observed as early as 10 days before or after the actual date.