Tomb Sweeping Day
Tomb Sweeping Day is held two weeks after the vernal equinox. It is a Chinese holiday that follows the solar calendar, not the lunar calendar. It usually falls early in April (between the 4th and the 6th). Tomb Sweeping Day is also known as Qing Ming, which is literally translated as "Clear Brightness." It is an important spring holiday to the Chinese.
The holiday honors rebirth of nature, which spring brings each year. Many Chinese plan festive events for this holiday, including gardening and fun outdoor activities, like flying kites that come in all shapes and sizes. It is also a tradition to honor deceased ancestors by cleaning up their gravesites.
Origin of Tomb Sweeping Day
Qing Ming was celebrated in ancient times with lots of dancing and singing. The people would go outdoors to fly kites and have family picnics. It was common to color boiled eggs and break them open to symbolize new life. The Emperor ordered that trees be planted on palace grounds as way to commemorate springtime. Young men and women would court each other at this time of year, so there was plenty of love
in the air in the villages.
The Holiday Today
Tomb Sweeping Day has continued to be a celebration of new life, but also a day to honor ancestors. It is believed that ancestors watch over their families in their afterlife. For this reason, the Chinese sacrifice things necessary to keep their ancestors happy, so the ancestors will be endowed with good fortune upon them. Families will sacrifice food and burn money that the ancestors can use in their afterlife. In return, the families hope for a bountiful harvest and the blessing of more children.
Families tend to their ancestors graves on Tomb Sweeping Day (thus the name of the holiday). They will pull up weeds, attend to any repairs that the tombstone needs, and get rid of underbrush. All dirt is swept away from the grave site to give the tomb a bright appearance.
Then, the Chinese will offer sacrifices of food to their ancestors by placing it on the tombs. The food is bland and dry, but this is to appease the ancestors, but not appeal to strangers who might plunder the food. Back at home, the Chinese will spread out a much nicer display of tasty foods at altar tables. The foods are carefully arranged for good luck, and most of the foods are dishes that the ancestor liked very much, including chicken, eggs, rice, and other foods. In order to get the nutritional parts of the meal to the ancestors quickly, some will light incense to help speed up the process. The food is then eaten by the family.