Grave-sweepers had to spend more on the Ching Ming festival yesterday as the cost of food and paper offerings went up by at least 20 per cent over last year's prices.
The increase was felt as hundreds of thousands of people visited the graves of their ancestors on a clear and bright day after almost a week of bad weather.
Families took various kinds of seasonal fruits and cooked dishes for relatives to gather around the grave and enjoy a meal. Paper offerings were also burned for the deceased in the afterlife.
"Sweepers" Mr and Mrs Koo, who led dozens of relatives at their grandfather's tomb at Tseung Kwan O Chinese Permanent Cemetery, spent more than HK$1,000 to prepare for the day. "We used to spend around HK$800, but the prices went up this year," said Mr Koo, who would only give his surname.
"It is just a once-in-a-year occasion and I do not mind spending more on it.
"The most important gift is [to respect the loved one] in the heart," he said.
Over 49 hill fires were reported by 6pm yesterday in the New Territories, including in Yuen Long, Tai Po and Fanling. It took firefighters two hours to put out one fire on a hill close to Sheung Shui.
A 65-year-old woman suffered a minor injury and was sent to Cheung Chau Hospital after falling into a 2.5-metre-deep cave near Pak Tso Wan when she hiked to a grave on a hill in southeast Cheung Chau.
Meanwhile, relatives of one Chinese passenger on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were left undecided on what they should do on the annual festival, with their loved one remaining unaccounted for. They were unsure whether youngest son Li Zhixin should be added to the list to be mourned.
"You know, you either have the living body or the corpse when accounting for a person. But now we don't know where he is," said father Li Zhou'er, 72.
"There is nothing I can do but shed tears," he added. "We just want to see the body and bring him home."
His state of limbo reflected one of the emotional struggles for relatives of Chinese passengers on board the flight.