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Time to celebrate family

Date Posted: 2004-04-08

Shiimii, a uniquely Okinawan family rite observed at the family tombs, is happening on the island. Shiimii falls between the 22nd of the second and the third of the third lunar month of the year.

The beginning of the Shiimii this year was Apr. 4, and people traditionally say the day also brings in the Spring. Beginning with April 4th, many people are seen cleaning their families’ tombs and attending subsequent picnics with special foods that are prepared for the occasion.

The ceremony starts with a prayer and burning of incense, and ends with a fest of food and drinks, and often playing of music and dancing. Only relatives attend the party, which is to ensure ancestors’ cooperation in securing prosperity and good health for the living.

Since Okinawan extended families are large, more than 100 people can attend the party. It often is the only occasion during the year that all family members meet. “We meet our whole family only at Shiimii. We usually have long conversations about both living and deceased family members, and as we are in front of the grave, we want our ancestors to be part of the conversation too,” Sueko Kinjo of Naha City attending her family’s Shiimii at Shikina graveyard said.

Many people consider Shiimii to be extremely important in cementing family ties and in creating the sense of unity between distant relatives.

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