Today my family did the ritual that's sort of the crux of us all getting together every year, that of honoring our ancestors. It's a lot like Día de Muertos, but more personalized for each family. These rituals are supposed to be done on specific death ceremonies[1] but I have a large family and we're all rather far-flung, so to make things more convenient, we just get together once a year.

It involves putting together foods that were the favorites of the deceased, honoring them with bowing, kneeling, and praying, and then feasting together. The basic posture involves putting your hands together in prayer and bowing your head three times and/or kneeling on the ground and putting your head to the ground and then back up three times. That being said, this part of the whole thing is very personal, too. Every family goes in order starting with the oldest child (that is, the firstborn aunt or uncle) and their children and ending with the youngest. Even within my family, no two families really do the bows and kneeling the same way. People bow different numbers of times, touch their foreheads to the floor differently, etcetera.

The most important part is to think about your loved ones who have passed away and spend a few moments of your life connecting to them, updating them about your life, or just being mindful of their presence even though they're not physically here. So I don't personally feel that how many times you bow or whether your knees touch the floor are very important. It's just interesting to me seeing how everyone does it differently, how everyone chooses to honor our same ancestors in different ways—but their own.

Out of the four ancestors' portraits that adorn our altar, there's really only two people there that I know: my paternal grandmother and grandfather. My grandfather unfortunately passed when I was only 7 or 8, so I barely knew him. My grandmother lived with us for a brief time[2], though, and I have a much stronger impression of her. We were all commenting today that it's already been 8 years since she passed. Nearly a decade.

So much has happened in the blink of an eye. Kids have been born, people have gotten divorced or moved to different states... My grandmother would hardly recognize us all now.

Time is like a river that flows endlessly to the sea of infinity. It's hard for me to come to terms with religion and how I feel about it, but I'd like to think that someday we will all reunite with the ones we love there.

  1. Of major family members, matriarchs and patriarchs, more or less. If we had to get together for every person's death, there'd be no end to it... ↩︎

  2. She basically went from house to house, spending a few months with each of my aunts and uncles (and us) throughout the year. ↩︎