In the kindred spirit of capitalism, Shanghai’s cemeteries are offering, for the first time ever, economically-friendly prices for all families who will not be burying their loved ones on the date of the Winter Solstice. This December 22nd, cemeteries such as the Songhe Cemetery in the Songjiang District are offering discounts of 400RMB to families willing to select a different festival day to set up tombs. This discounted list has 17 days, including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (a double celebration at its best).
Families who decide to bury ashes on the Winter Solstice anyway will be charged an extra 200RMB.
“With 2.06 million people expected to flock to suburbs or nearby provinces to visit their families’ tombs that day, some cemeteries are creating incentives to diminish the crowding,” says ShanghaiDaily.
As like many cultures of the Asian variety, the Winter Solstice (dongzhi or 冬至) is a festival of critical importance; aside from the plentiful making of and eating of tangyuan (湯圓), the solstice represents the coming of longer daylights hours and happy, positive energy. It is therefore typically a day of many funerals and visitations to pay respects to the ancestors of yonder-years. Discounts appear to have worked to combat this tradition though.
According to Lu Quanhua, “This year about 1,700 tombs will be set up on the Winter Solstice Day, about 200 to 300 fewer than last year’s… This proves that the discounting measure is effective.” Another cemetery manager Zhao Xiahun says, “This year around 900 tombs will be set up on the Winter Solstice Day, about 30 percent less than last year.”
In the great war of Chinese superstition versus Chinese frugality, it appears the wallet strings win.
To further aid and maximize efficiency for mourning/celebratory practices, around 193,000 vehicles are expected to chauffeur the Shanghainese to various cemeteries around the time of the Winter Solstice. Shuttle buses will apparently also be available for discount prices if patrons will be hopping on on non-peak days.
Maybe it’s just overall pessimism from needing to pay for a ceremony to put your loved ones to peace, but it’s a little heartbreaking to be able to discount burials like it’s bulk commodity or in a clearance bin. Save that money and buy some more bank notes for the ancestors to spend though, yeah?