The Qing Ming Festivals of my youth
I remember the day each year as a young child when I would pack my school bag full of snacks and drinks. Instead of our lessons, my class and I would wear white flowers made of paper and go into the city, to the war cemetery, to pay our respects to those who had died in China's revolution.
I remember that day: we would buy white paper flowers at the entrance of cemetery, and usually that afternoon, we would find a place to play and enjoy the weather - a lovely Spring outing. All of the students, my classmates and I, were guided by our teacher. After a day full of rememberance and play, my school bag would be light as I returned home. Still to this day, Qing Ming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, is one of the biggest holidays across China.
Across China, Tomb Sweeping Day is a day when Chinese families recall times spent with their loved ones by visiting the graves of their ancestors, and show their respect by cleaning away weeds, touching the gravestone inscriptions, and making offerings.
During Qing Ming Festival, people all across China uphold the custom of cleaning and sweeping the tombs of their ancestors and seeking their blessing from the afterlife. Families usually bring paper money and offerings of wine and fruit to the family’s tomb site. The paper money and incense are burned to carry them up to the ancestors and then prayers of remembrance are said.
As my family would leave each year, my parents would hand out leftover food items to the children - it was believed that after we children ate these snacks brought as offerings, we would have health and and good luck in the following year.
Many of my childhood Qing Ming Holidays are hard to remember, but I vividly recall that each year the Spring was in full bloom, with warm days and blossoming flowers. I remember playing in the soft breeze and basking in the spring sun, eating snacks, and sharing them with my friends and classmates. And most of all, I remember the cheering and laughter in the air.
This year, Tomb Sweeping Day is on April 4th, which is the 14th of the third month of the lunar calendar, and, just like the years of my childhood, I am going to pack my bag to embrace the Spring once again. Let your China travel bring you here as well!