As we here in Milwaukee dig out from a blizzard, many of us look forward to spring and the end of snowstorms. Ironically, yesterday’s record setting storm fell on a day that is supposed to provide the key to the severity of the remaining winter–Groundhog Day. It was also the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year’s “Spring Festival.”
The festival, the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays, begins on the first day of the traditional Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year customs focus on food, gifts called “red envelopes,” lanterns and in San Francisco’s Chinatown, parades. They celebrate what people have believed in the most this past year.
Chinese rituals are often reflective and respectful of past traditions. We at Krause Funeral Homes see that in beautiful Chinese American funeral celebrations.
Many Chinese Americans place a great deal of importance on the details surrounding the death of their loved one. Family gatherings are more than special times to focus on the life of their loved one, they often include a specific set of rituals to be carried out in respect for their elders. Wreaths, gifts and a portrait or photograph of the deceased may be placed at the head of a loved one’s casket. Others orchestrate colorful, musical funeral processions combining Chinese and American traditions. Some provide family and friends with pieces of candy to sweeten the bitterness of death. Even after the funeral is long over, rituals may dictate that families gather at the cemetery to beautify gravesites, provide elaborate food or burn paper offerings.
No matter what groundhogs were able to see yesterday, we look forward to spring and continuing to celebrate the seasons of life.