Ancestor Worship to Begin With

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I’m a Chinese descendant, though I have to admit I’m being raised so far away from the tradition anymore. The big families are still keeping some of the rituals, but I rarely understand what it is all about and how it should happen. All that I know, the ritual means time of family gathering with lots of rare food and snacks.

And just two days ago, a day after I arrived back in my hometown Bogor, apparently there was one ritual being held upon my grandma’s place. Due to the Chinese New Year that soon will come, there were some ceremonies that held as a preparation.

Yes, I was lucky enough to be home just in time for the Ancestor New Year Worship ritual.

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It is a ritual, where families gather together to pray before the ancestral tablets, which are believed to be the homes of the ancestors. We would place some specific foods, fruits, and cakes, which believed as their favorite, as an offering. By doing so, the spirits of ancestors are invited to join in the celebration too.

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The painting on the center is the image of my grandfather’s grandfather. I even couldn’t imagine how many years had been passed since he was around, and it amazed me more to think how long this ritual has been kept and being passed down over generation. (And I hate to think for how long it will still last when it comes to my generation 😦 )

The food that been prepared that day was his favorite meals, my grandma said. It has been told that we have to make it as close as it is, so his spirit will be pleased. So there was a few traditional cakes and one dishes I would rarely see these day: Ayam Masak Merah (Red Chicken dish).

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Mouth-watering, rite? πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹
I’m pretty sure his spirit would enjoy it as much as we do!

Later, we would try to find out if they finished enjoying it by throwing up two coin and seeing on what side it would land on. They said, if it was landed with two different sides then they finished their meal already, but if it was two same sides of coins then it means they haven’t finished it yet. When that circumstance happened, we should wait a little bit more before start throwing the coin once again.
Then what happen if it’s still the same side?
Well, my mom just told me an interesting story that happened some years ago. The coins was showing the same side again and again, even they had repeated it for quite a while. After the confusedness, then one just discovered there was one kind of meal hadn’t be served of the table. So immediately they looked for it, served it on the table, and not so long, the two different sides of coins appeared.
Kinda out of logic, but it happened anyway πŸ˜‰
That’s why the elderly put a serious thought onto this.

And anyway, after the two different sides of coins appeared, we could proceed to the next ritual. It always become the highlight of the day, the most interesting one: time to burn the joss paper!! πŸ˜„

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Joss paper, also known as ghost money, are sheets of paper that being fold and later being burned as an money offering for the deceased.
It was usually burned with some other things that once became their favorite. In my case, yesterday it was burned with some cigarettes and some shots of liquor. This ritual was happened to ensure their spirit still has lots of good things and money to enjoy in afterlife.

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I have to admit, I grew up with no specific feeling towards my family tradition. But as I grow up far away from home, I’ve missed lots of those rituals already and suddenly I realized how precious those are. The ritual that has been kept from many many years and still goes down over generation. I just feel it’s an amazing thing I should treasure about.

And another thing that I just realized by then was: how fast time flies :’)
The last time I attended this was three years ago, I was the one who hold the stick during the burning of joss papers. And this year, it was my baby who hold it, with the help of my father.

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Just as the next generation is here and ready to take over, I do hope the ritual can still survive over the years to come.

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