Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Qing Ming Festival

The Qing Ming Festival (pronounced ching ming) is also known as the Clear Brightness Festival and Tomb Sweeping Day.

Tomb with offerings for Qing Ming
Photo Credit: The Nameless Bear
Usually held around April 5th, the Qing Ming festival is a time for families to come together to honor their ancestors with offerings and by tending to their graves and burial grounds. It's also a time to celebrate the beginning of spring with outings in the countryside, going for walks, and kite flying.

Memorial in Hong Kong Cemetery being maintained during Qing Ming
Photo Credit: Istolethetv 
The graves are first tended to by weeding, sweeping, and cleaning them. Offerings of food, tea, wine are provided as the Chinese believe the dead  need sustenance as much as we do in the afterlife.

Food offerings
Photo Credit: Benjamin Chan
In urban areas, especially as cremation is becoming the norm, flowers are offered to honor one's ancestors.

Photo Credit: Dan
In order for the deceased to prosper in the after life, the Chinese burn joss paper, or spirit money, and paper replicas (last years popular item was paper iphones!).

Burning Joss paper as offering
Photo Credit: The Nameless Bear

Once the food has been ceremonially offered, the food is then eaten as a family picnic. Cold foods are eaten, such as cold chicken and tea eggs, in keeping with Hanshi day (Cold Foods day) that has been incorporated into the festival.

"Hanshi, the day before Qingming, was created by Chong'er, the Duke Wen ... The festival was established after Chong'er accidentally burned to death his friend and servant Jie Zhitui and Jie Zitui's mother. Chong'er ordered the hills in which they were hiding set on fire in the hope that Jie Zitui would return to his service, but the fire killed Jie and his mother. Because of this, people were not allowed to use fires to heat up food and the date became named Hanshi. Eventually, 300 years ago, the Hanshi "celebration" was combined with the Qingming festival and later abandoned by most people." -Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Benjamin Chan

Willow is also important during this time, particularly in rural areas. The Chinese carry willow with them, wear willow crowns, plant willow trees, and put willow on gates or front doors to ward off evil spirits that wander during Qing Ming.

Photo Credit: Dwayne Koh

Flying kites is a big part of Qing Ming. After the graves have been tended and offerings made; after the family picnic, flying kites is a common activity to celebrate the coming of spring. During this festival, kites are also flown at night with lanterns. Often, kite strings are cut and kites are let go to fly up to the heavens for good luck.

Xinhuanet has a great photo stream of Qing Ming being celebrated here.

We are getting ready for Qing Ming by reminiscing about the deceased in our families. The girls talked about their favorite memories with old pets. Hubby and I talked about our grandparents, and our childhood memories. We talked about their favorite dishes, which we'll prepare for Qing Ming, to offer to their spirits and enjoy afterwards as a family.

What does your family do to mark the beginning of spring? How does your family honor your ancestors?

Read about our Qing Ming celebration here.

Learn more about Chinese kite legends and how to make your own kite to fly

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