Someone's passing is never a good time, but I found a lot to be interested in when my wife and I attended the wake of our good friend’s grandmother.
I had been informed that this was a Taoist wake. Some of these cultural differences are amazing to me as I've never been exposed to much more than variations of Christian teachings or atheist beliefs (and atheism doesn't have traditions). I was reminded that Chinese wakes typically last for three, five or seven days, with the passing of the deceased on the first day and the funeral on the last. In this case, it was five days and we had gone to pay our respects the night before the actual funeral.
So I had little to no idea about what was going on. There was a lot of incense burning and I was told that the expenses for just the incense - joss sticks and joss paper - can be around S$2000 for a funeral like this. There were images depicting the deeds between children and their parents and may explain a bit of where some of the traditions come from. (I had to have that explained to me since any writing was in Chinese and it said very little. I guess the stories are ones everyone should know, like any Christian recognizing an image of animals boarding the ark, I suppose.)
The rituals were conducted by three Taoist priests and filled with ‘live music’ that was loud but enjoyable. Ok, perhaps not everyone can enjoy this and I guess the neighbors who live next to this community deck are subjected to a fair share of such events and are probably no longer impressed. But I'm sure these guys studied hard to keep the rituals as traditional as they are and to me that deserves much respect.
There were several short rituals, each followed by a break. Then before the night was out, the ‘house’ made of paper and several large garbage bags filled with folded joss paper that represents money for the deceased were put into a large trailer and burned.
I wouldn't even know where to begin to research all that I had seen and what it meant, so if you can shed some light on it, please help me by leaving a comment below.
Note from Chilli Padi: Unfortunately, I had neglected to fill my camera with an SD card on that night, so do excuse the grainy iPhone photos. Thanks go out to Penny and Vincent for allowing us to share in the experiences (and dinner) that evening. And to Penny’s grandmother, RIP.