The Tomb Sweeping Day (also known as the Qing Ming Festival) is a traditional Chinese festival.
To non-Asians, Tomb Sweeping Day in Taiwan may seem strange, but it’s one of the most important traditional holidays for ancestral worship in Taiwan. Elders and ancestors are of very high importance in the culture, and this day is dedicated to honoring those ancestors.
What is Tomb Sweeping Day?
Tomb Sweeping Day is the day that Taiwanese families return to their ancestral tombs to care for the graves of relatives who have passed away. Families gather to honor their ancestors by praying, lighting incense, burning paper offerings, and leaving flowers, or food items. But it is also a time to gather your family and enjoy Taiwan springtime and outdoor activities like picnics and flying kites.
Offerings would typically include traditional food dishes, burning joss sticks, and joss paper (ghost money). It’s believed that after burning this special type of paper, it gets used by ghosts as a form of spiritual currency in the afterlife.
Look out for the colorful temple parades and captivating performances that may happen across Taiwan on this day.
🗓️ Tomb Sweeping Day is a public holiday in Taiwan, making it a day off for schools and most businesses in order for people to sweep their ancestor’s tombs.
The ‘do’s and dont’s’ of Tomb Sweeping Day:
Here’s a brief guide to what is expected and what is forbidden on the day of the Tomb Sweeping ritual:
1. When to go: Families generally plan to visit the graves of their relatives in the week leading up to, or in the ten days following the actual date of the Tomb Sweeping Day. It’s not necessary to visit the tomb precisely on April 5.
2. Remember the essentials: Consensus says that there are four items that are important for the Tomb Sweeping ritual: Wine, food, joss paper, joss sticks/incense, and fresh flowers.
Also, during the ritual, the food should not be enclosed in wrappings or boxes. Making the food accessible is considered a sign of sincerity.
3. The family should visit the tomb together: Many families believe that if the ancestors are going to bestow blessings on their descendants, then it is best if there are no stragglers for the occasion.
4. …except the family members that should not go: Many follow the custom that pregnant women, very young children, and sick family members should not visit the tomb site since these family members are considered susceptible targets for hungry spirits that may be wandering around graveyards, preying on the increased number of visitors coming to gravesites around the Tomb Sweeping Holiday.
5. Food for the day: Tradition suggests that the families performing the tomb-sweeping ritual should avoid eating food that has been touched by fire for the day. It is recommended to eat cool food items; think picnic-style foods like wraps, salads, and sandwiches.
6. Dressing for the occasion: Before going to visit the gravesite, it is important to consider one’s attire. First, avoid extremely bright colors, like reds, yellows, oranges, pastels, and neon colors. The bright colors might be seen as gaudy and offensive to the spirits of family members.
7. Cleaning the gravesite: Obviously, it is called Tomb Sweeping Day for a reason. When family members reach the tomb site and before the ritual, the grounds need to be tidied up, and debris swept away.
8. The traditional Tomb-Sweeping ritual: After the gravesite has been cleaned and the fresh flowers laid, families should first say a quick word in gratitude to the Earth deity which is essentially the caretaker of the entire graveyard, then a word to the individual tomb guardians may be in order.
9. Leaving the tomb site: Once the ritual is complete, the tomb tidied up, and the ancestors properly honored, many people want to be sure that no residual bad energy or bad spirits will accompany them after their brush with the spirit realm.
Other than that, just enjoy the holidays!
Source: Taiwan News