SINGAPORE - It was still and misty at 6am yesterday, but several little fires were already burning in the dark.
From a distance, they were the only hints of life at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery, along with the tail lights of a dozen or so cars.
Upon closer inspection, faces could be seen huddled around the large tombstones, lit by torchlight and the burning wicks of red candles.
Today is Qing Ming, the annual "tomb sweeping" day when Chinese families visit the graves or niches of their departed loved ones to pay their respects.
They typically visit during the 10 days before and after the day.
"It's a tradition for us, to honour our father," said Mr Anthony Quek, 49, who was at the cemetery yesterday with his mother, five sisters and their families.
Although they have been making annual visits for 26 years, he said the rituals mean more to his mother, Madam Ng Ah Chu, 77, who had spent the previous day preparing the offerings.
"I expect it will probably stop with our generation, because we already don't know a lot of the procedures and prayers," said Mr Quek, who is self-employed.
Several families who had risen early to beat the crowds said the ride in was shorter than usual, perhaps because visits were spread out over the long Easter weekend.
They took offerings such as fruits and buns, as well as paper money and gifts to burn.
At one tombstone, a cup of coffee was laid out for 85-year-old Madam Gan Beng Guat's late husband, Mr Wee Seng Boon, who died of liver cirrhosis in 1989.
Madam Gan, who has eight children, has been visiting his gravesite every year, but her grandson Ng Yu Fei, 11, came along for the first time yesterday.
"I was scared when we first came because it was very dark. But later, the lights (from the cars and torches) were on, so it was okay," he said.
The boy added: "I want to pay respects to my ah kong. He passed away before I was born but papa told me what he was like."
This article was first published on April 5, 2015.
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