The story of my Grandma and Chinese Funeral Superstitions

A different post to my usual beauty ones! That's what I like about blogging, I don't have a theme and I like to post about what I feel like at the time. This post is LONG. I apologise. 

A few months ago, my Great Uncle (Gung Gung) passed away and his funeral was on the 29th November. My Grandma on my dad's side of the family recently passed away too. My grandma was nicknamed "por por" because in Chinese, "Geh por" means Grandma. She was buried on Monday 12th February.

It's such a long story about my grandma, she helped raise me since I was born. I always remembered being around her as she lived with me and looked after me when both parents went to work. I slept in the same room as her and my Grandad, we had a double bed and a single bed pushed up against each other. I slept next to my Grandma, and my sister slept next to my Grandpa. My grandma was a very strict old lady, she always hit me with bamboo sticks (I was very naughty and mischievous). She worked so hard in her life time. She lived in China and moved to the UK. I'm not sure the story, but I think my Dad got her a UK/HK passport (UK ruled HK at the time) and they managed to go over.

Overtime, my mom and dad grew apart, and my mom took me away. During the custody battle, I had to visit my dad every Tuesday and Sunday, but my dad ended up running away to Northern Ireland (so I was told) and my grandma looked after me. A while later, my Grandpa died and my dad lost custody because he never attended court and my mom did all the right things and still took me to see my dad even though he wasn't there.

My mom ended up selling the house they were living in, so my grandma had to move out. Of course, parents are always one sided and there are so many things said to kids which make you choose a side. My dad was never there, so it was easy to be on my mom’s side. Anyways, I didn't see my grandma that much. I regret this so much. I didn't see any of my dad's side of the family from the age of 7 until I was about 16 or 17. I only saw my dad about four times, maybe less when he would do a fly over visit.

Anyways at 16/17, I decided to get in touch with my Aunt, and she let me work in her takeaway to earn some money before university. I stayed in touch with her, and we meet sometimes (not often, but we dod go for dinner when I was at home). I saw my grandma a bit more, BUT again not as often as I should have. I didn't visit her at all, and maybe saw her about 8 times since I got back in touch.

I spent a little time with her before I moved to Korea. We went for lunch and I took her back to her care home, then helped her get ready for bed. She didn't want me to leave, but she was so tired. Anyways, I was talking to David about my Grandma, saying I was going to take her out to the park, get some fresh air, and the next day, I get the message that she passed away.

I'm not sure what made me think of her that day, but I would like to believe that she came to see me, to tell me that she was going. I regret not spending time with her. I was so stupid growing up. My grandmother was so lonely, and her grandkids rarely visited. My dad has new kids now, and I think she was super happy that she got to see them and that she had more grand kids. She never spoke english either, so living in an all english care home must have been tough for her.

Some people say that I shouldn't be too hard on myself, but I know, that deep down that I should have done better. I'm sorry por por, I never learned Chinese, but I do hope that you know this. I also hope that you're in a much better place, speaking chinese, playing mahjong, eating delicious food and of course, dancing with Grandpa.

My mom told me that Chinese Funerals were different to Western Funerals and that there are so many superstitions. Some members of my family take this very seriously, and follow it to a T! Even if you were close to the deceased, you may not be able to say your goodbyes due to these superstitions.

First things first, the deceased must be buried in a coffin, and the funeral must be an open casket. The same thing as a wake, the family who are allowed to attend, gather around the coffin, in a certain order. There are so many traditions with this from the colour of clothes, to children wearing something over their heads.
When I was younger, I remember my Grandad's death and being made to pay respects to him. It's not something I wish on any child, having to see a dead person inside a coffin! I still remember his face, and it haunts me to this day, I still have nightmares!

The second tradition is that family members must burn a special kind of incense and white candle. Also, they must burn a special kind of paper money, so that the deceased have enough money in their afterlife. Family members who attend should light incense and bow. Food is also presented to the deceased, so that they would never become hungry. Often, people have shrines in their homes for the deceased. I remember my uncle having one in his place of work. There were pictures of the deceased, fruit offerings and a place to burn incense. He would go regularly to bow, and pay respects to them. I was always afraid of it, as it was bright red, with a constant shining light. I still am creeped out by the shrines, I don't think I could have one in my home, but it's pretty common!

Colours are a big thing in Chinese tradition. At a funeral, you shouldn't wear red. Red is a common colour in China and often resembles happiness. Back in the day, I'm not sure if they still do it now, children and the grandchildren of the diseased shouldn't cut their hair for 49 days. I don't know the reasoning behind this.

Also mirrors are often hidden away in the home, or covered. It is said that if you see a coffin in your mirror, you will shortly die. My cousin's grandma (I have no idea what to call her...), covered her mirrors with wall paper, because she was so afraid of seeing this.

If the deceased is younger than you, the older people shouldn't show respect to them. They are just buried in silence. When we pay respect, we bow and say something in Chinese.

People must not attend someone else's house for 30 days, or it brings bad luck to you and your family. I remember entering my cousins house after my Grandpa's death and got scolded for it.

Children also can't attend the grave site until 100 days has past. However, they can walk past it. I was made to go to the grave site though for my grandad, so I guess it's not a serious thing.

There are certain rules too. So, my Aunty is married, but her husbands parents have a certain grave stone which clashes with my Great Uncle's. I don't know what my mum means when she says "clash" though. My Aunty can't go to the funeral, and her kids can't either, or it brings bad luck to both sides of the family.

So yeah, these are the ones I know about. There's lots to do for a Chinese funeral, and there are many more things to consider than what I've written down here. My dad had to have my grandmother buried before the Chinese New Year. I'm not sure why, but I'm glad they managed to do it before then.

What do you think of these traditions? Does your family have any traditions or superstitions for funerals?

Kelly

Comments

  1. I'm sorry about your Grandma. I was just speaking to my sister about my paternal grandmother today and somehow our last conversations with her came up. Of course we didn't know at the time that we were each speaking to her for the final time but we are glad we got the opportunity. So I can sort of understand how you must feel.

    We have a lot of superstitious rituals in India too. I don't really understand them but we do have to follow them to the extent possible because it would be considered disrespectful not to do so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Superstitions are super interesting to me! I’d love to learn more about different cultures!

      Delete
  2. I’m so sorry for the loss of your grandma, must be really a really tough time for you, always here if you want a chat, I found this post really interesting though loved reading about all the traditions, thankyou for sharing xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. I’m so sorry for your loss Kelly! I love how you explained all the traditions though, I had no idea there were so many.

    Suffering Wanderlust

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah! There are sooo many it’s crazy!

      Delete
  4. I'm sorry about your grandma kelly it's hard i was very close to mine and was her next of kin as lived closest to her at the end.
    I love different cultures traditons i remember when my mum's dad died they had an open casket in his living room and all me and my cousins would dare each other to look.



    www.beautyreviewsandbargains.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find it so scary when it is open casket!!

      Delete
  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. I am sure your por por knows how much you loved her. I feel the same about my grandma. She had Alzheimer’s and I lived two hours from her, so I rarely saw her. Also it was incredibly upsetting. Even though for the last couple of years she didn’t know who I was, I hope she realised how much I loved her. Xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh sorry for your loss too! Death is always the hardest time :(

      Delete
  6. My condolences... I had to stop reading mid-way because I started crying. I'm not an easy crier but stories about grandparents always get to me. Growing up very close with both grandparents on both sides of my family (very lucky!) I'm now always worried about them, with me living abroad and barely making it to Switzerland for visits once a year. I'm so worried that with both my grandmas being so old now that each visit might be the last one. What you wrote about having regrets hit me really hard... I'll probably write another letter to them today!
    Anyway, the funeral superstitions were very interesting to read, especially since some of them remind me of the Korean ones I encountered. I believe that the ceremonies and rules around funerals help give structure in times of grief...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I’m sorry I made you cry.
      The korean traditions are so fascinating!! I love learning about them too!

      Delete
  7. My condolences. It's not easy to let go of the people we love the most. And then we also regret all the things we didn't do or say but I guess that's a part of the grieving process. I'm sure your grandma knew how important she was to you and how much she was being loved. A long-distance hug from Norway to you❤

    ReplyDelete
  8. So sorry for your loss. I've only lost one grandparent so far and I was only 10 so I can't imagine how difficult it is as an adult. It's so interesting to read about the different traditions. I love reading about how other cultures do things! x

    Sophie
    www.glowsteady.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow Kelly thank you for this informative and super open post. My best friend is Chinese and she's told me a bit about what funeral practices are like in China. The process is so extensive I don't know how they remember to do it all. My condolences for your grandmother

    ReplyDelete
  10. So sorry for your loss. I lost my last grandparent in November and I can totally feel you. I wish the best to your family! I am from India and we too have a long funeral process.. about 13 days. It was really interesting to read about your culture.. thanks for sharing!

    shradysstyle
    www.shradysstyle.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh kelly!! Gosh this had me in tears I'm so very sorry your loss. My grandparents were like a second set of parents to me because my parents worked so much. I chose to stay with my nan and grandad every weekend whether they worked or not. My grandad had two single beds in his room I slept in one he the other. My nan had literally hundreds of teddy bears I used to want them all in my bed but obviously room wouldn't allow, so my grandad had loads in his bed for me too so they wasn't sleeping alone (my view). My grandad recently died and I read a eulogy at his funeral I'm the only one in the family who can hold back my tears in public so it was best I read it out. I can safely say it was the worst experience of my life I was reading other peoples words out in front of hundreds of people and all I wanted to do was curl in a ball and cry. I didn't see my grandparents much towards the end of his life, I struggled with that thought too. When all is said and done she knew how much you loved her, she won't want you living with regret. She will want you happy living a good long life like she did. She loves you and looks over you everyday make her proud xx

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is such an interesting post Kelly! I really enjoyed reading it, learning about all the traditions and superstitions. I'm sorry about your losses too. My husband lost his Grandma a year ago, and i think he wishes he could have seen her more often as she lived in Italy. It reminds us to remember to visit our elders and make more effort.. I always feel so sad when I think of an elderly person on their own :( xx

    ReplyDelete
  13. My condolences Kelly! Your post really touched my heart! I am the closest to my grandmother and probably one of the only grandchildren that spends time with her, so this post inspired me to keep reaching out to her whenever I can!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave me a comment :)
Please leave your blog URL, so I can have a nosey at yours too!

Popular Posts