The Qingming Festival is the time of the year when people of China remember their departed ones, by visiting their graves and making offerings. Traditionally, this day observes cleaning and sweeping of the graves, ancestor worship, making offerings of food and flowers, and burning joss paper. Besides remembrance of the deceased, the festival marks the arrival of Spring too. For this reason, the festival sees a combination of grief and joy! The Qingming Festival is also popularly known as the Tomb Sweeping Day, and the Clear Bright Festival.
Origin of Qingming Festival
The Qingming Festival originated from the Hanshi day (meaning day with cold food only), which was a tribute to Jie Zitui, a follower of Duke Wen of Jin. He once made soup for the Duke out of a piece of meat from his own thigh during Wen’s 19 starving years of banish. Eventually, when Jie Zitui died in a fire caused by the Duke, as a mark of repentance he ordered three days devoid of fire to honour Jie’s memory. Consequently no cooking for three days either came out as a custom during Qingming Festival.
Qingming Festival Customs
On this significant day, the cemeteries have people of China swarming to make offerings to their loved ones who have passed away, and sweep their tombs. After cleaning the burial place, people offer food items, flowers and other things. Then they burn joss paper and pay their reverence to the memorial. Some people also take branches of the willow tree along, or put them on their front door in the belief that this will help keep at bay the evil spirits that might wander. Also, they do not cook on this day (sometimes one or two days before Qingming also) and only cold food is served.
Qingming festival - A welcome transition ...
In contrast to the grief of the occasion, people also enjoy anticipation of Spring on this day. This is the time when the sky is clear and the sun shines brightly, greenery abounds and nature is again lively. People enjoy flying kites during the Qingming Festival, but its exclusiveness lies in the tradition that kites are flown also at night. They tie little colourful and illuminated lanterns onto the string of the kite, which makes them look like flickering stars in the sky.