Qing Ming Jie--Tomb Sweeping Day
Commonly referred to by its traditional Chinese name, Qing Ming Jie, this spring holiday is one of the few events in China to follow the solar calendar. Literally translated to mean “Clear Brightness,” this spring celebration is meant to signify the rebirth of nature as well as mark the start of the new planting season. It typically falls during the first week of April, two weeks after the Vernal Equinox.
Historically, Qing Ming Jie was recognized with a day of dancing, singing and flying kites. Bearing a striking resemblance to spring celebrations, especially Easter celebrations in western cultures, the traditional practice also included coloring boiled eggs and then breaking them to signify the birth of new life. The holiday was a symbol of rebirth during which the emperor would plant seedlings on the palace grounds, and young people would court each other in villages throughout the countryside.
Throughout the centuries, the way Qing Ming Jie was celebrated changed dramatically. The holiday transformed from the celebration of new life into a day meant to recognize the past by honoring ancestors. The emphasis of the day became centered around ancient folklore, suggesting that it was the spirits of the deceased that watched over the family. By sacrificing food and spirit money to their ancestors each spring, Chinese people believed that their ancestors would bless them with good fortune, healthy harvests, and more children in the year to follow.
The holiday has since continued to develop throughout the years. Now families typically celebrate Qing Ming Jie by visiting the graves of their beloved ancestors. Family members tend to any brush that has grown over the past year, placing offerings of dried foods, flowers and spirit money at the gravesite. Offerings of dry, typically bland food are used as a way to deter the ghosts of strangers from consuming the offerings. Within the home dishes favored by the ancestors are prepared and placed on an alter for the ancestors to enjoy. In certain regions these offerings are then shared among the entire family in recognition of those loved and lost.