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[Qingming Series] Offerings Fade, Memories Remain

-- Why do we commemorate the dead?

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Written by: Casy CHEN, Natalie TANG
Photo by:the internet
Edited by:James Campion, WANG Mengyu |  Date:2018/04/01154 Hits

Barely no one could afford to miss the Oscar animated film, Coco, the concept of which is based on the Mexican holiday – the Day of the Dead – of which some aspects are similar to Tomb-Sweeping Day in China. Mexicans make skulls using sugar or chocolates to commemorate the dead, while the Chinese prefer burning incense and delicate paper horses in various shapes like mansions and palaces, carrying their hopes of offering grand houses where their ancestors’ spirits can live in peace. In spite of different ritual articles for memorizing the achievements and kind deeds of their ancestors, both Mexicans and Chinese believe that the dead can take those offerings back to the other side to use as a comfort. In addition, grand altars are the main decorations of a fete in both countries. However, during a Mexican fete, each candle will be lit up to represent one dead, while dust and leaves on the tombs will be cleaned up in China in order to assure the spirits of their beloved ancestors.

 

The smoke of the incense sends our commemoration to our ancestors

 

Festivals commemorating the dead are highly-respected worldwide. During the Obon festival in Japan, striking lanterns are hung up and burning braziers are placed in the front yards, lighting up the paths for the return of their ancestors’ spirits. In Indonesia, local residents would dig out the remains of the dead on the MA’ Nene festival once every three years and refresh the remains with delicate makeup and fine clothes. Weird as it seems, it’s indeed a unique farewell with blessings and memories, and when the three official commemoration days occur in May, Israelis would visit the tombs with flowers in hand, laying selected stones on the tombs or aside the monuments for stones represent eternal – just as the spirits of Israelis’ ancestors.

 

Lanterns light up the path for the dead

 

You are internal in my memories

 

Expressing memories and respect for ancestors, the movie Coco is a huge success with bursting tears from the audience. And the melody of the theme song, Remember Me, has haunted every one of us walking out of the movie theater, so as it goes: “Remember me, though I have to say goodbye; remember me, don’t let it make you cry; for even if I’m far away I hold you in my heart; I sing a secret song to you each night we’re apart…”.

 

Let the music play and the love live on

 

Offerings fade, memories remain. If we could see through all those grand ceremonies and well-prepared offerings, our love and memories are what is left and what will live on – yesterday a little boy decorated the tomb of his mother with wild flowers, just as the way his mother used to decorated herself in those beautiful mornings; the night before a young girl sat by the tomb of her musician boyfriend and released that special song from her throat, just like the nights they curled in their warm little apartment; the old veteran will be dressed up tomorrow and plans to spend the whole afternoon drinking brandy with his sacrificed partner, just as the quiet nights when they lay behind the trenches expecting their futures after the war with a bottle of bad brandy in hand.

 

“Keep our love alive I’ll never fade away,” goes the song.

 

Absorbed in the material society, some people are ashamed of their skin colors, some sacrifice their own blood for higher social positions, and some are going numb and have never come home again. The meaning of memorial days for the dead is gradually eroded by the big, busy-running machine. However, whenever we are trapped and stuck, we can always return to where everything begins, and the spirits and wishes our ancestors and loved ones have passed on will wake our souls up along with our abilities to love and cherish.

 

Memorial festivals are multicultural, yet the love of humanity stays the same despite our nationalities, religions and social positions. Offerings and altars fade, yet memories with the dead remain despite being far apart. And this long-lived love will always remind us of who we were, who we are and who we’ll become, living the life we truly desire with the wills of those who we hold in our memories.