Building relationships and bonding with relatives – Make every opportunity to connect and bond count.

I have just communicated with my relatives overseas about planning our travel itineraries for the year. There is a possibility that my uncles and cousins from Canada may be visiting Malaysia in the first half of 2017.

I was suggesting that maybe we should meet up for “cheng beng” (qingming), which is also called the All Souls Day. This usually falls on the 4th of April each year. Hopefully that would be a great opportunity to meet up with all my cousins, and uncles and aunties, who I have not seen for a few years.

However, for few of my relatives, this occasion may not be something that they would like to participate. The reason is because it involves visiting the cemeteries, which may not be one of the most pleasant things to do. Plus it can be very hot during that time of the year, and there would be crowds and let’s not start about the traffic…

This is a time where relatives from far and wide will be meeting up almost at the same spot and time, to pay respect to their ancestors.

I went back to Penang for ‘cheng beng” last year and the taxi ride took three times longer than usual to travel from the airport to the hotel. I asked the driver and he just shrugged and said it was “cheng beng”!

I would like to encourage all of you thinking of heading back for “cheng beng”. First plan early, and book your flight and accommodation early to avoid disappointment. And for those reluctant ones, please allow me to encourage you to get your families to join you.

Here are the reasons why:

  1. This is about sharing our culture with them, what our ancestors have passed down for so many years. We can learn about the rituals and traditions of what and why this ceremony is performed.
  2. It may not be your children’s culture, but it would be an educational experience for them to understand their heritage, even if they did not like it.
  3. It is a great opportunity for children to meet their relatives that they may not know, as relatives from far and wide normally use this occasion to meet and catch up with other family members. Thus use this as an opportunity for our children to meet up and get to know each other, as this is one of very few occasions where relatives have the time to meet up, to sit down, communicate, connect and bond together.
  4. Normally during “cheng beng”, each household will be preparing sumptuous dishes to offer to the deceased. Once the ceremony is over, we will have the opportunity to consume all the special delicacies. It would be a great opportunity for the younger generations to learn about the traditional dishes and sweets that are specially made for this occasion.
  5. There will be so many celebrations throughout the city; it can be a vacation for the family to enjoy and experience many things.

Family connection times are precious, and they are getting far and few nowadays. If you are planning to head back for “cheng beng” or any special occasions, make use of the opportunity to connect, to bond and to share our culture and heritage with the younger generations where possible.

This way they can appreciate their ancestries, where they come from and the values of their family. And always remember, your culture is an amazing gift!