Tomorrow is 5 April 2006, the 8th day of the Chinese lunar month. 5 April is the Chinese All Soul Day, commonly known as Cheng Meng. Chinese all over the world will pay their respect to their long departed loved one and forebears one week before and after the exact date. With one fourth of the world population observing the Cheng Meng rite, it escapes me why Cheng Meng is never declared a holiday. Primarily, maybe it is not a day to celebrate or/and rejoy. Secondary, most Chinese will take the convenient weekend before 0r after the exact day to observe the rite, so there is really no need to allot a "holiday" to it.
Although Cheng Meng is always associated with the dead, its observation hold many lessons for the livings too. It is on this day, that many of nephews and nieces asked me about our grand parents, their lifestyles, just like what i had done many years ago when my papa was alive. From some of these stories, i knew my grandpa was one of the heavenly kings in his kampung by virtue of his business. My grandma was a very strict disciplinarian. She would expect everyone, including the youngs like my elder cousin and brother, to take their meal seriously (read fast). She would order the table cleared atfter she finished her meal. So, everyone got to finish before she did. Well, we are not so draconian nowadays, but the spirit of grandma had lived on. We never turn on the TV when we eat our dinner.
Cheng Meng is also a day where the whole clan gathered together, without the distraction of other festive activities like Chinese New Year. It is a good time for bonding between the youngs and the youngs-at-hearts. It is during many of Cheng Meng family gatherings that i discover my nieces cyber nicks and their latest hair colour. Cheng Meng is also the day some of us senior members play Santa Claus or Aunt Agony to the younger members of the clan. When my father and his younger brother was alive, we would go out for dinner together in both my father's and my uncle's jalopies. This was a reunion dinner that we were never able to have during CNY as both the brothers were living far apart. That tradition had survived until today and now we actually have a dinner fund for this one purpose.
I will go back to Melaka this weekend for my annual Cheng Meng rite. After fending off questions like when i would get married for the last ten years, I am bracing myself and SO for that one logical follow-up question…