Spring CleaningPosted By | Posted On Apr 01, 2013
April 4th marks the day of one of the most important celebrations for Chinese communities around the world. Qing Ming, sometimes spelled Ching Ming, is also known as Ancestor’s Day. It occurs every year on the 104th day after the winter solstice. Falling on the first day of the fifth solar term, it is one Chinese holiday that corresponds to the Gregorian calendar, and therefore always occurs between the 4th and 6th of April. For the Chinese, the best way to assure good fortune is to make sure that one’s ancestral spirits are happy. On this important day, people visit the graves of their ancestors, sweeping and tidying up the grave sites before offering the spirits gifts of food and drink. Willow branches are brought with them, in the belief that they will ward off any “hungry ghosts” that are thought to wander through the cemeteries stealing food from their rightful recipients. It is also common to attach willow branches to the doors and gates of homes for the same reason.
Chinatown is bustling during this time of year, with people preparing for Qing Ming. It seems the spirits have a fondness for roast pork and egg custard tartlets, or so the lines at the bakeries and the BBQ shops would suggest. The groceries provide incense and ancestor money (often labeled “Heaven Bank Notes”) to burn at the graves.
Qing Ming is also one of the first opportunities people have to spend time outside since the cold winter months, so it is also a popular day for kite flying and other outdoor activities. Kites are also flown after dark, with colored lanterns tied to the strings that hold them. People often cut the string allowing the kite to fly away, with the belief that it will bring them good luck.
The day also marks the cut off date for picking the highest grade teas in China. Green teas picked before this date are considered to be the best quality. Known as “Pre-Qing Ming” these teas are priced considerably higher than those picked after this date.
written by Jim Becker, Chinatown guide