In Chinese culture, paying respect to ancestors is a pretty big deal. In fact, we make a national holiday out of it. Every April, people in China and Taiwan celebrate Tomb Sweeping Day, a day when family members get together at the cemetery, clean up the weeds that have accumulated in the past year, and share food and drinks and paper money with the deceased.
Here's an interesting tidbit about holidays in Taiwan. Days can move around and be "made up" on the weekends.
- April 4th was Children's Day Holiday (Wednesday)
- April 5th was Tomb Sweeping Day Holiday (Thursday)
And since no one in their right mind wants to work on a Friday after 2 consecutive days off, the Taiwanese government officially swapped out Friday and made it a holiday as well, so that everyone can enjoy a 5 day weekend.
The day that got swapped out? The previous Saturday, March 31st.
How cool is that? I'd be more than happy to work on a Saturday in order to get 5 straight days off.
Back to Taiwan
One of the biggest reasons I came back to Taiwan was to participate in Tomb Sweeping Day. I wanted to visit the cemetery where my paternal grandmother is buried.
She made a huge impact in my life when I was growing up, and I miss her dearly.
Ever since she passed away in 2015, my life hasn't been the same. In fact, her death made me think about my own life a lot more closely and contributed to my decision to leave my job in LA and do a bit of soul searching in Taiwan.
My family has 4 tombs inside this cemetery area. They've been around for many generations, so there were many family members that I've never even met. But we all share the same last name, so we all got together to pay respect to our ancestors.
We set up food and rice wine for our ancestors to enjoy. We also laid paper money on the tombs and later burned it so that they can be rich in heaven.
No dead person wants to go hungry, sober, and poor in the afterlife, right?
We light up the incense (I actually hate this word because it has such a different meaning in Western culture, but I can't think of a different word for the act of lighting up a stick and praying) bow in front of the tombstones, and ask our ancestors to keep us safe and prosperous.
After a couple of hours in the grueling sun, I said goodbye to my grandmother. I can't believe it has been almost 3 years since she left us. I also can't believe I left my corporate job more than a year ago.
So much has happened since then.
And I've heard more than a few comments from family members asking what the heck I'm doing with my life.
But what I do know is that life is shorter than you think. In the blink of an eye, it could pass you by. I'm doing what I think is right for me.
I'm well aware that I could end up being completely wrong, but I sure as heck need to find out for myself.