One of my favorite parts about traveling the world is learning about customs that are different from our own. I’ve yet to find a culture that does not have beautiful traditions and “new” often ancient ways of celebrating or honoring those important to them. The photo above is no exception.
During the month we were in Asia, our colleagues shared many insights about Asian culture. Holidays reflect values and beliefs, and reveal much about a country’s outlook and history. One of those days, Qingming Festival or Day of Clear Brightness or Tomb Sweeping Day is set by the solar calendar, and not the lunar calendar.
In early April a day is set aside to sweep, and otherwise maintain, the gravesites of ancestors. This day is honored in four Confucian Asian countries: China, HongKong, Macao & Taiwan. However, Tomb Sweeping Day is only a recognized holiday in Taiwan and Hong Kong, as China has traditionally tried to discourage ancestor worship.
Tomb Sweeping Festival has historically been a time when the Chinese honor their ancestors. Participants visiting their graves and sweeping or tidying the grave sites. Family members may place flowers on the graves, burn ghost money or honor money and make offerings. In the countryside, the tombs may be painted, weeds trimmed and grass cut. The area is swept clean. This holiday marks the beginning of the busy agricultural season, when the fields are tilled and seeded.
In current times, it has become popular to honor ancestors on-line with ‘Memorial Halls,’ lighting virtual candles, and joss-sticks, sending flowers and messages. The government has encouraged these newer practices as they are seen as reducing air pollution, and waste. A colleague of mine told me that one of the inscriptions on his grandfather’s grave was “eternally young.”
Truth be told, I don’t have to travel far from home to encounter countless breathtaking ways we honor our departed loved ones. From taking part in some of Austin’s colorful Dios de los Muertos celebrations, to witnessing countless rocks balanced on headstones in Jewish cemetaries, these traditions are all around us. But this month, the Oingming Festival is front-and-center. I only hope I’ll be able to witness it firsthand in my future Asian travels.