Families visit Mandai Columbarium ahead of Qing Ming Festival to avoid crowds

The Qing Ming Festival falls on April 4, with crowds expected to peak this long weekend and the two weekends after.
The Qing Ming Festival falls on April 4, with crowds expected to peak this long weekend and the two weekends after.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Some families are heeding the advice to visit the columbaria on off-peak days during the Qing Ming Festival.

Bank employee Denise Chua, for instance, was at the Mandai Columbarium on Thursday morning (April 1) with seven family members to pay respects to her late great-grandparents.

The 32-year-old said her family has observed the annual tradition for the past 20 years and chose to visit on Thursday "because it may be crowded on weekends and an appointment has to be made for parking".

The Chinese tomb-sweeping festival falls on Sunday, with crowds expected to peak this long weekend and the two weekends after.

Those driving to the Mandai Columbarium on these days will have to book an appointment, as crowds are expected to be larger this year due to high niche occupancy.

Those visiting Choa Chu Kang Cemetery and the government-managed columbaria in Choa Chu Kang, Mandai and Yishun are advised to limit the number of visitors to two per household.

These columbaria will remain open 24 hours daily until April 18.

When The Straits Times visited Mandai Columbarium on Thursday morning, there were about 30 people on the ground floor of Block E, where the prayer shelter and burning pits are also located. At each level of the four-storey building, there were fewer than 20 people.

Ms Chua observed that the numbers are smaller compared with the years before the Covid-19 pandemic. Her family did not visit the columbarium last year.

Visitors were also maintaining a safe distance from other groups of people, even though there were no safe distancing ambassadors in sight.

Mr Sherwin Lee, 33, who is self-employed, said: "Normally in the past year, on the weekends or closer to the actual day, you can see three to four families together in one aisle. Now, it is probably one family or empty, which is a good thing."

He was at the Mandai Columbarium with three of his family members to pay respects to his late grandparents and senior relatives, an annual affair for the past two decades.

Ms Chua said: "We just take our own precautions - if people are making an offering, we wait outside, and when we pray, they will go elsewhere."


Visitors at Mandai Columbarium on April 1, 2021. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

In an earlier advisory, the National Environment Agency (NEA) urged visitors to check the real-time traffic updates on its website for an accurate assessment of the ground situation before visiting.

Venerable Kwang Phing, president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, said the Qing Ming Festival remains a valuable tradition. "It is to educate the next generation to practise filial piety and pass on these good values to the next generation."

Mr Tan Thiam Lye, chairman of the Taoist Federation (Singapore), said that as many families are living apart now, the Qing Ming Festival is also a period for family reunions as they visit their ancestors' graves together.

However, this may not be possible this year as the NEA has urged elderly family members and children not to visit these places during this period. Ven Kwang and Mr Tan said families can make alternative arrangements, such as by conducting prayers at home.