This article is part of our Qingming Festival Family Guide. Sign up for our newsletter to receive our best activity, recipe and craft ideas before every Chinese holiday.
The most visible Qingming Festival traditions revolve around tomb sweeping, the ritual cleaning of gravesites to honor a family’s ancestors. People care for their relatives in the afterlife by visiting at the cemetery, refreshing their tombstones and making offerings of food, incense and joss paper.
Enjoying time outdoors during the Qingming Festival provides a refreshing counterbalance to the somber task of tomb sweeping. Qingming, which translates literally to “pure” and “bright,” is a warming period of rejuvenation and growth that farmers historically used as a seasonal signpost for plowing and sowing seeds.
Tidy your family grave sites. Sweep away any weeds or debris, place flower arrangements and freshen the paint on the gravestone’s lettering. Symbolically, a clean gravesite lets your relatives know that they remain in your thoughts.
Make offerings of food, incense and joss paper. The Chinese believe that ceremonial offerings convey material comforts from this world to the afterlife. Food and drink provide nourishment, while “hell money” and paper replicas of cars, appliances and electronics provide the luxuries relatives may have lacked while living.
Stroll in the countryside. Taking a springtime outing known as taqing, is a great way to enjoy the season’s new blossoms. For a solution closer to home, you could visit your local botanical garden, camp in your backyard or stroll through your neighborhood park early in the morning.
Go fly a kite. Animals or characters from Chinese opera are popular, though it may be most fun to add small lights that make the kites twinkle like stars when flown in the dark night sky.
It’s important to remember that the Qingming Festival has two halves, equally balanced between sadness and happiness, death and rebirth. Spending time outdoors during this period of “pure brightness” provides a calming opportunity for reflection and opening yourself to new possibilities.
Your turn! Do you have any other questions about Qingming Festival traditions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
HT: Photo by Anhui News.