Monday, April 4, 2016

Qingming 2016

Today is the Qingming Festival. That's one of those Chinese holidays that are hard to explain to people unfamiliar with Chinese culture. Some have compared it with Memorial Day, which is almost accurate. But it has nothing to do with veterans, soldiers, the American Civil War, flags or NASCAR.

On Qingming, people go to their family cemeteries and clean the graves of their ancestors. This is an important ritual since the graves are generally neglected most of the year. I've been told that cleaning them is a sign of respect. Whenever I point out to Chinese people that we keep our graves clean all the time in my country, I'm told that such a thing is crazy. We have very different cultures.

People will also burn fake money so that the dead are not poor in the afterlife. Go to any temple at any time of the year and you'll see people offering food to the dead. It's the same concept. The food is so they won't go hungry in the afterlife. The burning money is just paper that more or less looks like real money. No one wants their dead ancestors to be poor, but they're not about to burn themselves into the poorhouse either. The food is real and generally feeds the monks after hours.

The best thing about holidays is usually the food. Except for this one. The main food for Qingming is qingtuan, a green dumpling filled with red bean paste. Rather than make it with green tea, they use grass. That might be why it's not the best holiday food around here. I like the New Year dumplings, Dragon Boat zongzi and, of course, the moon cakes on Moon Cake Day a lot better.

Qingming is one of those holidays that I'll probably never get into. Obviously, I don't have any graves to clean here, and I've never gone with any of my local friends to theirs. This is a somber family holiday, so bringing along curious foreigners isn't appropriate.

1 comment:

  1. I always want to say "Happy Qing Ming Festival" in Chinese (清明节快乐), but technically one is not supposed to say that!

    Seems these days most people would rather take the day off to go shopping than embrace the traditional aspect. Which is fine, to each their own.

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