Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day of the Dead

Every year about this time, Chinese families in and around San Francisco, and I assume all over the world, gather to pay their respects to their ancestors. There is a two-week period when this happens, and on the weekends during this time window families flock to the cemeteries.

Today was the last day this year for this tradition, and my husband and in-laws all gathered at the grandparents house for breakfast, and then arranging flowers and food. After, we caravanned to three different cemeteries in South San Francisco.

I’ve always liked this tradition. It guaranties that the whole family gets together at least once per year and spends the day together. It’s a time of remembering and celebrating the family members who are still with us. We take food to the gravesites, burn offerings to the dead, light firecrackers, and there is always lots of bowing to the gravestones. It’s fun and a bit festive. It’s also nice to participate in traditions that have been going on for thousands of years.

The only problem is the traffic and parking around the Chinese cemeteries, which are pack with families all rushing to pay their respects before the time-window closes. It can sometime seem like a madhouse, but with everyone bringing food and flowers and burning offerings, it really quite a spectacle.

After fifteen years of tagging along with my husband on these cemetery days, I’ve noticed that every year the number of family members showing up grows smaller each year, and the time we spend at each grave is shorter. It’s kind of sad that the grand kids and great grand kids are not interested in keeping the tradition. And this year several of the adults were not present. Today, as we moved from grave to grave, I kept thinking that once the current grand folks are in the ground, this tradition will die out. And when it does, I will miss it terribly.

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