Well, here it is, almost the end of April 4, 2010, in Taiwan. Well, about 4 hours to go… forgot that I hadn’t written anything today, but I think I know what the topic will be.
Today, we ‘foreigners’ or ‘western people’ celebrate Easter. I’m sure everyone back home knows what Easter is about, or at the very least, how we tend to celebrate it.
A few of the games on Facebook, have made that very clear. For the past few weeks, we’ve been collecting Easter eggs in Farmville. We’ve been searching for Easter goodies in Treasure Madness. I even noticed that Mafia World has something going with a big tough guy holding an Easter basket!
So, it’s only fitting that I try to explain a little about Easter in Taiwan. One word – non-existent. Yes, even though it is hyphenated, it is still considered one word.
April 4 in Taiwan is just another day – as always. I’m not sure how the lunar calendar actually works, but if this was the 4th day of the 4th month of the lunar new year, then this would be Children’s Day. A holiday that I only heard about this year, and no one seems to know what it is? I wonder if it was just created this year. I also find it funny, because the number ‘4’ is a bad luck number in Chinese culture. The word for four SOUNDS like the word for DEATH. So the number ‘4’ is as much a bad luck number as ’13’ is to us ‘westerners’.
Anyway, so Easter is celebrated in much the same manner at the bushibans, as Christmas. There are a bunch of games, lots of candy, and everyone gets a ‘gift’. The various schools will have their teachers teach the students words pertaining to Easter, but nothing, to my knowledge, is mentioned about the REAL Easter. Again, not that many Christians in Taiwan, so it wouldn’t be understood anyways.
However, let me talk about tomorrow. Tomorrow, and this year happens to be April 5, but what the lunar date is, is beyond me, is a holiday called “TOMB SWEEP DAY”. Now, this may not sound like something that should have it’s special day, but when I think about it, it is a good day.
This is the day where family will gather at the burial place of members of the family that have passed on. I would assume that, for some people, it may mean visiting several burial places, but for others, it may mean one stop. Family is an extremely important part of Taiwan culture. That is not to say that other cultures or countries don’t care for their families, but here, from a western view, it seems almost like an addiction.
It is nothing to see children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all living together in the same house. If not the same house, then right next door. I’ve seen this a lot. It is part of the culture, that when a man and woman marry, the woman in essence, becomes part of her husbands family, as if she was born into that family. Very few people, considering the population, will visit the wife’s family… maybe once or twice a year, but the husband’s family is visited almost on a weekly basis. Again, this is not what everyone does, but a good majority.
So, back to ‘Tomb Sweep Day’. From my understanding, the family will go to the burial place. They will clean off the headstones, sweep it out, take out all the weeds that have grown over the past year, plant new flowers, and burn money. Yes, money. Not real money, but a paper representation. The Chinese culture believes that, even in the afterlife, one still needs cash. A bundle of yellow paper is purchased, taken to the burial place, and in a special pot specifically used to ‘burn money’, they will light this stuff on fire. As it is consumed, apparently the long past relatives receive the cash. How they share it, or divide it up, or what they need to buy in the afterlife, is still a mystery to me. And no one seems to know! They just know, somehow, that you need cash in the afterlife.
As I was heading off to Ting and Cathy’s place for class this morning, I pass by a rather large cemetery. I’m not sure that is the word for it, but in English, this is what it would be called. I noticed that there were many, many people performing this ritual today. It was almost dangerous, as the road basically run through the cemetery, or rather the cemetery has been built on both sides of the road. No big deal, but with all the burning money, the smoke was incredible.
It was so bad, that you had to slow down. People are running across the street, lighting fires, smoke everywhere, choking you as you’re driving along… I should have realized that this was going to happen today. I would have taken an alternate route. I expect that tomorrow, it will be worse.
So that is what Easter is like in Taiwan. No hiding eggs. No chocolate bunnies to nibble the ears off of. No ladies in big bonnets. A lot smoke and fire, and cleaning of grave sites.
Happy Easter everyone.