In a few weeks, many Chinese families will begin preparations for the upcoming holiday known as the Qingming Festival. Also called Ancestors’ Day or Tomb Sweeping Day, the traditional Chinese festival happens each year on fifteenth day after the Spring Equinox, which this year makes it April 4th. Qingming Jie literally translates to the “pure brightness festival” or “clear and bright festival”, it is a time where people are encouraged to go outside and enjoy the beginning of the spring weather. The holiday is considered one of the Chinese Twenty-Four-Solar Terms, giving it a very close relationship with greenery, spring, and agriculture.
Not only is this time a seasonal symbol, the Qingming Festival also represents a day for respecting ancestors and loved ones who have passed. In addition to spending time outside among nature and appreciate its beauty, it is also customary to sweep the tombs of ancestors after a long hard winter. Families will clear away weeds and add fresh soil around the gravestones of passed loved ones to show love and caring. They will then present offerings of wine, paper resembling money, and their favorite food to pay their respects and ensure ancestors are not hungry in the afterlife.
Another custom held dear to those who celebrate the Qingming Festival is flying kites. On this day, people across China-young and old- gather together to fly handmade kites of all different shapes and sizes. The most beautiful part of kite flying comes when the sun sets. Once the evening comes, it is tradition for people to attach tiny colored lanterns to their kites before flying them, making them look like twinkling stars in the night sky. Cutting the strings of the kites and letting them fly freely is a custom that is believed to bring good luck to the kite owner.
And of course what would a Chinese holiday be without a traditional holiday food? Dating all the way back to the Zhou Dynasty, over 2,000 years ago, it is custom to prepare and eat sweet green rice balls on this day.