Every year China celebrates Qingming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day. This year that day fell on April 5.
Qingming Festival is a combination of sadness and happiness. Activities include tomb sweeping, taking a spring outing, and flying kites.
Tomb sweeping, which has roots in Confucianism, is regarded as the most important custom in the Qingming Festival. Qingming is generally observed by families quietly visiting the gravesites of relatives.
Cleaning the tomb and paying respect to the dead person with offerings are the two important parts of remembering the past relatives.
- Weeds around the tomb are cleared away and fresh soil is added to show care of the dead.
- The dead person's favorite food and wine are taken to sacrifice to them, along with paper resembling money.
- This is all burned in the hope that the deceased are not lacking food and money. Kowtowing (bowing in respectful worship) before the tablets set up for the dead are made.
- Prayers asking for a pleasant afterlife for the deceased are expressed. Depending on the religion of the observers, some pray to a deity to honor their ancestors while others may pray directly to the spirits of their ancestors.
Tidying family grave sites demonstrates Chinese respect for their ancestors. Symbolically, a clean gravesite lets relatives know that they remain in the thoughts of the living. Once tomb sweeping is complete, families picnic at the cemetery and commonly spend the afternoon enjoying outdoor activities in the early blooming days of spring.
Qingming is also a time for people to enjoy themselves. The beginning of spring is viewed as a fine time to appreciate the beautiful scenes of nature. This custom can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907).
Flying kites is a Qingming Festival activity. Kites are flown during the daytime and into the evening. Little lanterns are tied to the kite to add a twinkling star effect to the night sky. Usually, the string to the flying kites is cut. People believe this brings good luck and that diseases can be eliminated by doing this.