Summer is not my favorite season, but there used to be one of my favorite events in summer when I was little.
It is Bon, especially religious ceremonies. Although I couldn't understand religious meaning, I felt something devout and fearful in the atmosphere where my mother and grandmother were busy preparing various things and dishes for our ancestors.
On the 13th August, they made welcome dumpling in the round shape, and welcomed the spirits with Mukaebi (Welcome Fire). Since then they made special dishes for every meal, which were all made from vegetable. One set consisted of three dishes and rice for supper, somen (a kind of Japanese noodle) for lunch. They made three sets for our ancestors and one for those who have no one to tend their graves.
I loved to help my mother with shopping and preparing many things willingly. It was very interesting to offer various strange things, for example, paper-thin slices of wood on which our ancestors' names were written, special flowers including lotus, special dishes, ogara(a kind of dry stalk) for chopsticks and walking sticks and many kinds of fruits and cakes.
For three days from 13th to 15th my mother and grandmother were very busy and other family members helped without complaint. On the last day we made goodbye dumpling in the long oval shape, and I loved to eat welcome and goodbye dumpling with soybean flour and sugar very much.
At the last night of Bon we burned ogara in the garden as Okuribi (Farewell Fire) and sent off our ancestors' souls. And then we went to the Neighbor River to float the offerings off with a lighted candle on the lotus leaf. When I saw many floats drift away in the dark, I felt as if I were in the unrealistic place, as if my soul and body drifted in the dark surrounded with spirits of ancestors.
Now I miss that feeling very much. I think it must have been a kind of encounter with the unknown world because I remember I felt my inside surging up without knowing why. That experience may have let me come to believe something supernatural, and perhaps it decided my character partly.
My mother keeps on doing Bon service partly, but because my parents live in the city, she can't float the offering in the river. There is no natural river and the city government prohibits this ceremony out of regard for public sanitation.
I think it is good for kids to serve anyone or anything without expecting rewards, and to build up generous character. And I'm very sorry my kids haven't had such experiences in their childhood. The following phrases occurred to me automatically.
Nothing comes from nothing,
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good.
------from "Sound of Music"