Ancestors worship and the understanding of religious differences

Tomorrow is the 15th day of the 7th month which is the Hungry Ghost Festival. So, we decided to pop by the temple where my mother and father’s urn is placed. The urn has only the earth from the grave. When they died, the Taoist monk (wor siong) will say some prayers at the grave, then, bring a lighted joss-stick and go to the temple and give them their ‘home’ in the temple. Since none of my siblings do ancestors worship at home, it is the best idea to have a proper place for their memorial.


The temple in Phor Tay is a very peaceful, clean, calm and orderly columbarium (a repository for human ashes or earth from the grave if the person is buried and not cremated) because it is a very old one and no new ‘residents’ are admitted anymore. Do you know that it is very costly to just ‘rent’ one tiny square? Those elaborate temples charge up to RM50K for one slot!

Anyway, I took my sons there and showed my little boy ‘mommy’s mommy and papa. He has this knack of understanding things. He has that look like he knows everything. We bought a packet of joss-sticks and burnt and placed them. (normally, if you are a Buddhist or Taoist, you bring the joss sticks to the heavenly god urn which is usually placed outside the building and pray to thnee kong and tell him that you are here to pray your parents etc and ask him to bless them, then, you go to the next statues, i.e. the Lord Buddha/Guan Yin and then, the ‘guard’ of the deceased souls, normally placed in the same building and ask permission for your ancestors to have a meal etc and then, only you pray to your ancestors).

We burnt the joss-sticks just because they are on sale for RM1 one packet. I told my little boy to pray, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on my ah mah and ah kong, bless them and all the people here and bring them to Your Heavenly Kingdom, Amen.”

hungry ghost feast

On Hungry Ghost month, you can pay the temple a certain sum (it used to be RM75 for the whole two weeks) of money and they will ‘invite’ your deceased loved ones to the feast. Every morning, they will place freshly cooked vegetarian foods, fruits, cakes, drinks and etc and offer to them. This is call the ‘cheeau tor’. My kid was so fascinated with the milk bottles placed there while I cringed thinking how morbid it is.

So, he asked me if ‘There are babies here who still drink milk ah?” Now, the Christian faith has to come into action because I don’t want my boy to get confused. So, I told him, “No lah, Jesus said when we died, everyone become beautiful souls and live in Heaven with God. There are foods and lots of things to eat already. Just like Vincent kor-kor, he big boy already, not a baby forever. But this is a different belief. We are Christians, they are Taoists.”


There are so many types of fruits, cakes and dishes. Yummy…durians!


Normally, all these foods will be given away to the poor for consumption after prayers. In Buddhist belief, they do not offer foods but Chinese in Penang and Malaysia usually have a blend of Taoism and Buddhism dan lain-lain so the practice of offering foods is very much part of their ritual. At most, it gives the people the comfort that they are doing something for their deceased loved ones.


After the trip to the temple, we went to the market for lunch. The flower stall has lots of flowers and we decided to buy some roses to place at my church Our Lady of Lourdes grotto. Tomorrow is the day Mother Mary is lifted up to Heaven as it is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is an obligation day for all Catholics to attend mass. So, the dear hubby who is not a Catholic gladly helped to choose the nicest roses.


And we brought the roses to the grotto ‘cos our little boy loves hanging around there. So, you see, there is really no big deal with being of different faiths in the same family. It is just a matter of knowing when to shut up. Serious….Like I know when not to bitch when ‘some people’ go pray ancestors and ask them favours like helping them to do this, do that. I personally feel, “Yeerr…..people die already, leave them alone lah, don’t kacau them to ask for favours somemore. They are your parents, but you cannot always run to them and tell them to bless so & so with better luck, more wealth, good health because they are only humans, once. They are on their long holiday, a well deserved rests so stop bugging them, can?” Ok, ok, I shaddap, no more inlaws rant.

Watch out….tomorrow is a full moon…..Be careful, ok? Oh ya, while I was out today, I bumped into two funerals procession already. Must be the ‘ship’ arrival…..Jeng jeng jeng…*spooky music in the background*

14 thoughts on “Ancestors worship and the understanding of religious differences

  1. You really open my eyes about how different faith can come together. Now I know there are people like me who go to church and visit temple due to my family.

  2. Hi, may I know what happened to the graves? Coz you mentioned only a bit of earth is put into the urns, meaning the graves are still somewhere right? Do relatives still tend to the graves on Ching Ming?

  3. wah so long dont come feel so outdated lah! i didnt know ghost suka durian! me no like, hehehe.

    eh, i attended sunday mass twice at a catholic church in subang.. and it was very politikal lah.. haiyoh baru mau enjoy politikusless religious service mana tau church now pun got ade.

  4. bantingboy – Yes indeed, die ledi, still got party. Hehehe.

    azhan – Hehehe, some priests are more daring than others. Errm…do you know that SB (from the Peaceful Hill) sometimes go in to keep an eye on things?

    eileen – The grave is there but usually, we only go once a year during Ching Ming. So, on other days, if the families wish to pray, they will go to the temple, which is more convenient. No one dares to go up to the graveyard, spooky and got snakes!

    EquinoxDezign – Glad to share. Cos many people are very uptight when faiths clashed. There was this one lady who lamented that one of the son refused to join in the prayers of the deceased parent funeral, not wanting to hold joss-sticks and follow the funeral rites because it is not part of his faith. But when the parent’s will/money was distributed, he doesn’t mind being part of the family. Haih..

  5. SB is everywhere. I have friends in SB. All are trained in local dialects.

    The sit in coffee shops, hang around in markets, churches, temples and toilets. Bwahahaha!!! Funny but true.

    The cempedak beside the durians look good!

    2 funerals??? My workload also picked up this month. Sure got fat bonus!!! Bwahahaha!!!

  6. Lilian – Is holding joss stick considered a no no by Christians? What yr opinion? I was told tat and for my wedding I did not hold any joss sticks during the Chinese ceremony. Lucky my in-laws ok about it.

    Pebs last blog post..The Irony Of Men and Women

  7. wow!! durian the offers have so many varieties hor?? last time where got put durian one..
    I’m wondering, after finish with the praying, who is going to eat all those durian, oranges, apples..dan lain2??? are they going to throw it or eat it?? just curious..sorry ah..

    Kadusmamas last blog post..All story lah!!

  8. kadusmama – They donate it to old folks’ homes and to those helpers at the temple. Cos the few nuns there told me.

    Peb – It depends on individuals and also your Christian denomination. For us Chinese Catholics, we do not mind holding the joss sticks as a sign of respect for our elders as the Catholic faith emphasize on keeping our culture while praying to only one God. So, I draw a line, joss sticks for the ancestors, ok. Joss sticks for the gods of the others’ faith, sorry lah, gua tak main.

    Hafiz – No problem at all. But see got white orbs flying around ah? Nanti got extra person staring back at you. Hehehe, joking lah. Watched too many Ghost Whisperer series.

    Sir Terence – Don’t tell anyone my profession hor?

    verine – Penang has the most festive mood here. Right after this hungry ghost, there is the moon cake festival and then, the nine emperor gods. Every month also have some kind of prayers.

  9. Every year during Ching Ming I go and ask for 4 digit number but never touch yet.

    Not fair lah. I got burn them hundreds of millions and they won’t even let me win few thousand.!!

  10. That’s one of the reasons why I prefer Catholicism to other Protestant churches. Catholicism treasures traditions and rituals, something that I could relate with. Holding joss-sticks and kneeling in front of the deceased (more so it’s the dad/mum/grandparents!) is NOT an act of worship. It’s a sign of respect, a Chinese tradition that’s been passed down from generations to generations since ancient times. And I do disagree with the term Ancestral Worship as being used elsewhere in the Western world. Westerners tend to look at things from their own perspectives, disregarding the value of filial piety that lies deep inside in this ritual. Most Chinese may have blurred the line between worshipping to deities and holding joss sticks as a sign of respect to their deceased relatives, but we should know that they are totally different from each other.

    kyhs last blog post..English pronunciation

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