The Ching Ming Festival is one of the twenty-four parts in Chinese calendar and it falls around April 4th after the vernal equinox. On this day, the entire family visits their ancestors or relatives’ graves. In ancient times, people celebrated Ching Ming with dancing, singing and picnics. Colored boiled eggs would be broken to symbolize the “opening of life.” In the capital, the Emperor would plant trees on the palace grounds to celebrate the renewing nature of spring.
After century of time, this celebration of life became a day to honor past ancestors by following folk religion, the Chinese believed that the spirits of deceased ancestors looked after the family. Sacrifices of food and spirit money could keep them happy, and the family would prosper through good harvests and more children. Even today, the Chinese visit their family graves to tend to any underbrush that has grown. Weeds are pulled, and dirt swept away, and the family will set out offerings of food and spirit money. Unlike the sacrifices at a family’s home altar, the offerings at the tomb usually consist of dry, bland food.
Superstitious people even carry willow branches with them or hang it on the front door. It’s believed that willows help to get rid of evil spirits, when Ching Ming is one of the days that ghosts and spirits wander about.
The honoring of ancestors begins with proper positioning of a graveyard site and coffin. Feng Shui experts determine the quality of land by the surrounding aspects of streams, rivers, trees, hills, and so forth. An area that faces south, with groves of pine trees creates the best flow of cosmic energy required to keep ancestors happy.
While bland food is placed by the tombs on Ching Ming, Chinese regularly provide scrumptious offerings to their ancestors at altar tables in their homes. The food usually consists of chicken, eggs, or other dishes a deceased ancestor was fond of.
Accompanied by rice, the dishes and eating utensils are carefully arranged so as to bring good luck. Sometimes, a family will put burning incense with the offering so as to expedite the transfer of nutritious elements to the ancestors.
Ancestor worship is a Chinese tradition that goes back thousands of years. Ching Ming or “Remembrance of Ancestors Day” is therefore a key holiday in the Chinese calendar.
From: The Macau Daily Times