Ching Ming, or Qingming
Qingming, also known as Clear Bright Day, Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day, is one of the most important festivals in Chinese culture. Celebrated in April, the 15th day from the spring equinox, Qingming is a day for mourning the dead by visiting – and cleaning – the graves of ancestors.
Qingming is not a solemn occasion, but rather a time to get together with family to show respect to the ancestors. Rituals include weeding the area, cleaning and repainting the headstone, and replacing the wilted flowers with fresh ones. Some families light incense and burn imitation paper money for the deceased to use in the afterlife.
Food is placed on the grave or tomb as an offering to the spirits of the deceased. Chinese do not cook on this day, and only cold food is served. Typical items include fruit, rice, wine, chicken, pork and cakes.
It is a traditional Chinese belief that giving the ancestors their favorite food not only shows respect for them but also brings the descendants good life and health. Some families then enjoy a picnic at the grave site, a practice also thought to bring good luck.
It is not uncommon to find chaotic Qingming celebrations at cemeteries and crematoriums. Some families may set off firecrackers to scare off evil spirits and to alert the deceased relatives that they are there to pay their respects.
Qingming is also a time for families to welcome the coming of spring and to enjoy spending time out-of-doors.