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Celebration of Ching Ming Festival: Bringing iPads to the ancestors

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Two years ago on the occasion of Ching Ming Festival - which starts today - people could only buy simple sheets of paper as offerings, which had to be folded to symbolize money. Now the most sold paper products are “iPads, shoes, bags”, explains the owner of one traditional shop in Macau. She has been selling the offerings for the last 20 years, and says business is good this year “because of global economic development.”
The Ching Ming Festival, which takes place in China every year around April 4th, is one of the most celebrated festivals among Chinese people. It is an opportunity for celebrants to remember and honor their ancestors at gravesites. Young and old pray before their ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories, and/or libations. The above described paper items are then burned to ensure that the spirit of the deceased has lots of good things in the afterlife. Ancestor worship is a Chinese tradition dating back thousands of years and this festival has survived down to the present day. It is celebrated in Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China.
A couple from Hong Kong, who buy products in a traditional Macau shop, come to Macau every year for the Ching Ming Festival as his mother’s grave lies here. The paper items sold in Macau shops range from replications of the more common notes, to the ones of clothes, shoes, cigarettes, cars, beauty sets, houses, mobile phones, iPads and roast pork. The tradition follows the market economy. The products, which are produced in Mainland China, are sold at prices between 15 and 30 patacas. According to the shop owner, it is believed that ancestors have the same needs as people in the world of the living. Thus, if the paper replication of an iPad is burnt, the device is believed to reach the ancestors, who “will know how to use it.”
The shop owner says business regarding Ching Ming articles is more or less the same in Macau, Hong Kong and Mainland China. Variations in the way it is celebrated can be found among families, “some commemorate earlier, some later, depending on when their ancestors died. For those that died more than one year ago, it doesn’t matter whether the practice of the rituals is held before, on, or after the festival.”

S.C./V.S.

 

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