Should You Gather For Qing Ming To Pay Respect To Your Ancestors Amidst COVID-19 Concern?

The Qing Ming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, is on 4 April 2020. However, cemetery officials are concerned about people gathering for the festival amidst the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

Cover image via Bernama & Choo Choy May/Malay Mail

The traditional Chinese Qing Ming festival is just around the corner

The festival, also known as All Souls Day or Tomb-Sweeping Day, holds special importance to the Chinese community in Malaysia who gather with their families to pay respect at the graves of deceased relatives.

Cemetery officials have urged the Chinese community to postpone or stop all activities and gatherings related to the festival in order to help contain the COVID-19 situation in the country.

This 2015 photo of people paying their respects to their deceased relatives at a public cemetery used for illustration purposes.

Image via Today Online

This year, they are being urged to hold prayer sessions at home

One of them, Nirvana Memorial Park, has said that they all prayer sessions for the dead will be prohibited at its cemeteries for the annual Qing Ming ritual, which falls on 4 April this year.

The funeral service provider will comply with the government's Restriction of Movement Order (RMO), which came into effect since 18 March and will remain in place till 31 March.

On 18 March, Nirvana Asia, which owns the private memorial park in Semenyih, also issued a public notice to let everyone know the steps they are taking to limit certain services.

Another funeral and memorial service, Xiao En Group declared that their burial plots will remain close to visitors during the RMO period

The memorial service took its Facebook to say that they will decline any visitors or the Qing Ming worship service from 18 to 31 March until further notice due to the impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

While apologising for any inconvenience, Xian En Group asked for people's cooperation for the safety of the entire community by stopping any religious and cultural activities and gatherings.

The funeral service has burial plots in Cheras, Nilai, and Melaka.

The Association of Kwong Tong Cemetery Management Kuala Lumpur has also urged the public to refrain from holding the prayer sessions

Malay Mail reported its deputy chairman Lee Chun Kong as saying that it is safer to "stop all" traditional activities related to the festival to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

"What we advise is to stop all Qing Ming practices such as tomb-sweeping. We do not encourage anyone to come during this time," Lee was quoted saying, adding that in the three decades that he has been working this was his first time experiencing something like this.

While Qing Ming festival falls on 4 April this year, tomb-sweeping activities can still be carried out 10 days after the actual day

This is according to the Union of Malaysia Chinese Cemetery Associations, which issued a notice saying that in the meantime families can choose to make their offerings to their ancestors at home.

However, if the situation improves after RMO period, then the people can still go for tomb sweeping.

"Although filial piety and respect for elders are important, we need to first take care of ourselves and people surrounding us," Penang Women & Family Development, Gender Inclusiveness, and Religions other than Islam Committee chairman Chong Eng said, as reported by New Straits Times.

"It is important that all stakeholders give their full cooperation during the RMO period as doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other health care workers in the front line have worked tirelessly to contain the spread of this disease," the Penang exco added.

"We need your support. Stay at home for yourself and your families, so that the front liners will be able to return home to meet their loved ones."

There are also concerns that if people are not careful during this RMO period, the conditions in Malaysia will most likely end up like Italy:

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