The Qing Ming Festival is a time for Chinese to honour their ancestors. Traditionally, it's a festival for families to 'sweep the tombs' and an occasion for the young and old to pray to their ancestors. Often, willow branches will be added at the tombs as well, in order to ward off evil spirits. The Chinese generally take this festival seriously even though it is not an official public holiday. Some of the rituals that the Singaporeans observe during this festival date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties.
According to customs, families would visit the graves 10 days before or after the Qing Ming Festival. The festival usually starts with families paying respects to their distant ancestors at their home altars and then proceeding to the graves of their closer relatives. Some may even actually return to mainland China to visit their ancestors' graves.
Joss paper and paper replicas of material goods will be burned, as the Chinese believe that the deceased will need these things in the afterlife. After the ancestral worship, the family then dines on the food and drink used in the worship. They usually dine somewhere within the memorial park, whether at the site itself or in the nearby gardens. This signifies a family reunion not only with the family present but also with their ancestors.
It is a traditional Chinese festival on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox), usually occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar (see Chinese calendar). Astronomically it is also a solar term (See Qingming). The Qingming festival falls on the first day of the fifth solar term, named Qingming. Its name denotes a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime (踏青 Tàqīng, "treading on the greenery") and tend to the graves of departed ones.
Qingming has been regularly observed as a statutory public holiday in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Its observance was reinstated as a nationwide public holiday in mainland China in 2008.
The Qingming Festival is an opportunity for celebrants to remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories, and/or libations to the ancestors. The rites have a long tradition in Asia, especially among farmers. Some people carry willow branches with them on Qingming, or put willow branches on their gates and/or front doors. They believe that willow branches help ward off the evil spirit that wanders on Qingming.
The Qingming (Pure Brightness) Festival is one of the 24 seasonal division points in China, falling on April 4-6 each year. After the festival, the temperature will rise up and rainfall increases. It is the high time for spring plowing and sowing. But the Qingming Festival is not only a seasonal point to guide farm work, it is more a festival of commemoration.
The Qingming Festival sees a combination of sadness and happiness.
This is the most important day of sacrifice. Both the Han and minority ethnic groups at this time offer sacrifices to their ancestors and sweep the tombs of the deceased. Also, they will not cook on this day and only cold food is served.
Qingming Festival (Tomb-sweeping Day)
Qingming Festival of 2013 falls on April 4. It is also known as Pure Brightness Festival or Tomb-sweeping Day, which falls on either April 4th or 5th of the gregorian calendar, is one of the Chinese Twenty-four Solar Terms. From that date temperatures begin to rise and rainfall increases, indicating that it is the crucial time for plowing and sowing in the spring. The festival therefore has a close relationship with agriculture. However, it is not only a seasonal symbol; it is also a day of paying respect to the dead, a spring outing, and other activities.
Origin - It is said that the Qingming Festival was originally held to commemorate a loyal man living in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), named Jie Zitui. Jie cut a piece of meat from his own leg in order to save his hungry lord who was forced to go into exile when the crown was in jeopardy. The lord came back to his position nineteen years later, and forgot Jie Zitui but later felt ashamed and decided to reward him. However, Jie had blocked himself up in a mountain with his mother. In order to find Jie, the lord ordered that the mountain should be set on fire. Later Jie was found dead with his mother. In order to commemorate Jie, the lord ordered that the day Jie died was Hanshi (Cold Food) Festival - the day that only cold food could be eaten.
The second year, when the lord went to the mountain to sacrifice to Jie, he found willows revived, so he gave instructions that the day after Hanshi Festival was to be Qingming Festival. Later, the two festivals were combined as one.
How to know when is Qing Ming Festival? – 清明节
Qing Ming or Tomb Sweeping Day always falls on the 5th solar term – April 4 or April 5. In fact, Qing Ming occurs on 104th day after the Chinese winter solstice or Dongzhi festival.
Previously, people celebrates Qingming Day by eating cold food, but now the traditions develop into sweeping the ancestors’ tombs, offering food and drinks, and even presenting some expensive things like bag or gadgets on the tombs. Those things are meant to be received by the deceased ancestors in their realm. The other traditions are done by farmers who put a willow branch in front of the doors or gates of their houses to wipe out the evil spirit. The last common thing done by people during the Tomb Sweeping Day is flying colorful kites. Usually, people also put small lanterns in the kites so that the kites will flicker on the sky.
Despite the seemingly sad history of Qingming, Chinese worldwide generally welcome the celebration of the festival as it is also an occasion of family reunion. Qingming 2014 will be a popular festival in China, Hongkong, Taiwan, Macau, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Qingming is also known as Ching Ming (same pronunciation).