Qing Ming Festival, a Celebration of Spring

Celebrated two weeks after the vernal equinox, Qing Ming Festival is one of the few traditional Chinese holidays that follows the solar calendar-- typically falling on April 4, 5, or 6. Qing Ming in Chinese literally means clear and bright, which hints its important as a celebration of Spring. Similar to the spring festivals of other cultures, Qing Ming festival celebrates the rebirth of nature, while marking the beginning of the planting season and other outdoor activities. It is also a festival to hold memorial ceremony for the past ancestors.

The Qing Ming Festival is a time when the sun shines brightly, the trees and grass become green and nature is again lively. Since ancient times, people have followed the custom of Spring outings. At this time tourists are everywhere. In ancient times, people celebrated Qing Ming with dancing, singing, picnics, and kite flying. Colored boiled eggs would be broken to symbolize the opening of life.

People love to fly kites during the Qing Ming Festival. Kite flying is actually not limited to the Qing Ming Festival. Its uniqueness lies in that people fly kites not during the day, but also at night. A string of little lanterns tied onto the kite or the thread look like shining stars, and therefore, are called "god's lanterns."
The Qing Ming Festival is also a time to plant trees, for the survival rate of saplings is high and trees grow fast later. In the capital, the Emperor would plant trees on the palace grounds to celebrate the renewing nature of spring. In the past, the Qing Ming Festival was called "Arbor Day". But since 1979, "Arbor Day" was settled as March 12 according to the Gregorian calendar.

The Qing Ming Festival is not only a seasonal point to guide farm work, it is more a festival of commemoration. 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.

Today, 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. The Chinese believe that the past ancestors are not eating well in their afterlife. Giving them their favorite food not only shows respect for them but also brings the descendants good life and health.

Source: http://www.c-c-c.org/