April 5, 2017
Where whole families take the time to remember, those that they have lost and to remember, what they still have
When: 4 or 5th April each year
Where: Across Thailand
The Qingming or Ching Ming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English, is a traditional Chinese festival, held on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese Luna solar calendar. This makes it the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, either 4 or 5 April in a given year.
The event is when Chinese people (and their descendents), visit the columbaria (public storage place for urns holding a deceased’s cremated remains), graves or burial grounds to pray to their ancestors.
This is a time when the young and old pray before the ancestors, sweeping and cleaning the tombs, they will also offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper, and/or libations to the ancestors. The rites have a long tradition in Asia, especially among farmers.
Some people will carry willow branches with them or put them on their gates and/or entrance to their homes. They believe that willow branches help ward off the evil spirit that wanders on Qingming.
While Thailand has a large Chinese community the major celebrations take place in China, where the holiday is associated with the consumption of qingtuan, green dumplings made of sticky rice and barley grass. It is also known as Chinese Memorial Day and Ancestors’ Day.
For the Chinese community here in Thailand, the Qingming festival is very much a family celebration and equally a family obligation. They see this festival as a time of reflection and to honour and give thanks to their forefathers. It is common for whole families to visit the graves of their recently deceased relatives on the nearest weekend to the actual date. According to the ancient custom, grave site veneration is only feasible ten days before and after the Festival.
Traditionally, the family will burn spirit money and paper replicas of material goods such as cars, homes, and phones. In Chinese culture, (and many of the different tribes in Thailand), it is believed that people still need all of these things in the afterlife.
Family members then take turns to kowtow before the tomb of the ancestors. The Kowtowing ritual is performed in the order of patriarchal seniority within the family. After the ancestor worshiping is complete, the whole family (which could be the whole clan), feast on the food and drink they brought for the worship, either at the site or in nearby gardens, in doing so they, signifying family reunion with their ancestors.
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