Tag Archives: Traditions

The Heart Behind Nailing in the Coffin, on Filial Relations

Out of respect, for the family who’d raised her, a final rite of passage here, translated…

One afternoon, the phone rang at my house, on the other end, came the voice of a woman, “Hello, youngest uncle!  Long time no see………” Wow, could it be, again?  The woman seemed to have felt my concerns, she’d immediately added, “Youngest uncle, I’m not a scammer, I’m………”, and the voice, it had, sounded, a whole lot like my niece all right.  “My mother’s in critical condition, since she fell ill, she’d been telling me, that after she passes, to ask you to help her ‘nail her coffin down.’”.

Then the past all came, rushing back to me, my eldest sister was adopted, I don’t have that many memories of her, by the time I was born, she was already, married away, or, maybe, I should say, she’d, eloped.  Back then, she wasn’t getting along with my eldest brother of twenty years senior, she’d fallen in love with a man in the factory she worked in, in those times, the neighbors, our relatives, families, and friend all chatted on and on, my father felt that he’d, lost face, and, claimed that she wasn’t, related to him anymore; and even so, as my eldest sister’s eldest daughter who was at the same age that I am, she’d taken her home to see our parents, and my parents no longer, felt angered anymore.  It’s just, that my eldest sister didn’t marry well, her husband didn’t take care of her family, and, she’d, insisted on not receiving any assistance from our parents, used her cooking skills, started a market food stand, raised her five young up.

The following day, I’d, immediately gone to the hospital to visit my eldest sister, being ill, she’d talked with happiness, on the parents who’d, raised her up, and, regretted how she didn’t, treat them with kindness, and recalled everything she experienced back at our home, in the end, she’d, asked me, to seal her coffin up with a nail symbolically, and naturally, I’d agreed to it.

A week later, my eldest sister passed on, and, in the funeral, my niece started crying, told me, “As you’d gone to see mom that day at the hospital, she was so happy, kept chiming on about how you’d agreed, to help seal up her coffin, how she finally, had a true family of origin…………”

“Sealing the coffins with nails” was originally something that was done for unwed women who’d died, having the male siblings of her own family to check to see if they’d been, abused to death, if there wasn’t sign of foul play, then, the male siblings would then, nail in the nails around the coffin, and this became a sort of a ritual out of courtesy of the deceased woman’s respect toward her own family of origin.  At this very moment, I’d, finally, come to understanding of why my eldest sister requested that I be the one, who’d, helped her complete, this most important ritual of her life that came after her death, this was, her deep love, her remembrances, of our, parents.

And so, this, is a ritual of the family, and the woman was adopted, and, she’d, married badly, and, despite how she’d, gone against her own adoptive parents’ wishes, they’d still, loved her wholeheartedly, and, accepted her back into the family, and, the niece asked the uncle to nail her own mother’s coffin, not just as a way of fulfilling her own mother’s, final wishes, but it was, a sign of respect the woman had for her own family which she was, raised in.

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Filed under Life, On Death & Dying, Philosophies of Life, Properties of Life, the Finality of Life

The Great Taste of a Traditional Chinese New Year Dish

Let’s see WHAT, is cooking in the kitchens here, shall we???  Translated…

Every year, it seemed, that after the village had a peace prayer and offerings, days seemed to fly right by.

And now, my kids are all away at school, and so, every year now, the cleaning, I’d had to handle all alone.  Sometimes, as the end of the year approached, the weather isn’t at all good, and it’d made cleaning especially hard, and so, I’d prayed that the skies would get sunny around the end of the year, so I can clean everything up, start the year brand new.

Every time, it took over twenty days’ time, washing the windows and the screen doors, the fans, the air conditioning systems, along with repainting the walls in and outside of the house, and, we must throw things out.  And, oftentimes, before we’re near done, it is New Year’s Eve already, and, we’d all stopped what we were doing.

Since we were growing up, our grandfather had not been around, and our grandmother is aged too, my father had five other siblings, but they all had their separate families, and even though, they’d helped each other out, they rarely intervened into one another’s life.  Every time before the New Year’s, my mother would bring rice to a family in the village, for them to help grind it up, took it home, and drain out the water.  During this time, she’d stayed in the kitchens, busying herself about, and my mother would make sweet buns, radish cakes, along with a few bowls of specialty New Year’s items.

In the olden times, we’d cooked with a brick oven, and needed straws to start the fire, then, we’d put some wood in.  As children, we’d often run in and out of the kitchens, to see what is going on, and even though, the smokes would get in our eyes and noses, we’d had that whiff of the sweet cakes, and felt the busyness of the adults, along with the excitement that children feels around the New Years.

Before and after the New Years, the ten of us would eat the cakes for lunch and dinner, and would share it with our guests too, and the two huge baskets of cakes would be gone, in no time at all, and, our hearts, filled with bliss and happiness.

After my mother got older, she’d no longer made those cakes, and now, my eldest sister would give us half of the radish cakes she’d made.  And, in the time of eating what my sister made, I couldn’t help, but miss what my mother used to make around this time of year.

So, this, is how you remembered your childhood, by the holidays, and, in this day and age, traditions are fazing out, as NOBODY has the time, to make anything from scratch anymore…

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Filed under Childhood, Connections, Family Matters