Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tomb Sweeping Day

Qing Ming Jie, Tomb Sweeping Day, is the day when Chinese families honor their deceased ancestors by tending to their graves. It occurs every year on the 15th day after the vernal equinox, approximately April 5th, although individual families may celebrate during the weeks slightly before or after this date according to their preference or family tradition.

I have been hearing a lot about this lately, so I decided to trouble my friend Sandra for the inside scoop:

Qing Ming is an important time for traditional families because it brings extended family together physically from all over Taiwan and sometimes beyond. It also unites the family in purpose as they celebrate their common heritage and xiao, or filial piety.

The ritual is comprised of the cleaning of gravestones and surrounding area, followed by the presentation of flowers and food offerings like fruit, meat, and Mijiu, a kind of rice wine. They additionally make offerings by burning ghost money, the paper money stand-in that allows their forbears to have lots of spending cash in the life yonder.

All the dearly departed are fair game, but people rarely go beyond their great-grandfathers. Apparently this is because most families either can not trace or have not traced genealogy records past this point.

The on-site festivities last for a couple of hours, after which the family cleans up the offerings and reconvenes elsewhere for a reunion-style get-together. The food that had just been presented as an offering may be later consumed by living family members.

This is a nationally recognized holiday in Taiwan, so most people get a three day weekend to aid with the travel that may be necessary to complete their responsibilities. I’m informed that most families are still traditional enough to honor this celebration, while some of the new and progressive generation are tempted to shirk their duty in favor of a nice, lazy spring day.

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