Last weekend, for many of us, the clocks went forward and we lost an hours sleep. Many in the West celebrated Easter – either by going to Church or gorging themselves on chocolate. Perhaps both. March ended and April began.
Today remained bitterly cold – and although some of our smaller daffodils are out, the larger ones are still tight in their spring green wraps. We seem to have been locked in a strange weather pattern in the UK for a year now – with March being the coldest on record for 40 years. Many forget that this time last year we had 18 months of drought. Whoever did the rain-dance this time last year sure did a good one!
In China and other countries in the East, it was a holiday – the Qingming Festival. This festival has various translations including: Pure Brightness Festival; Clear Bright Festival; Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day. Traditionally celebrated on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, it is a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime and to tend to the graves of their departed ancestors.
The festival’s origin is credited to the Tang Emporer Xuanzong in 732. Wealthy citizens in China were reportedly holding too many extravagant and ostentatiously expensive ceremonies in honor of their ancestors. Emperor Xuanzong, seeking to curb this practice, declared that respects could be formally paid at ancestors’ graves only on Qingming. The observance of Qingming found a firm place in Chinese culture and has continued to root itself in many other parts of Asia. Any excuse for a holiday!
The idea that we come out of the winter and into pure, clear brightness – and spring-clean the tombs of our ancestors does not really have an equivalent in the West. The Christian Church displaced many of these more pagan traditions for celebrating Spring by defining it as the most important festival of the Christian calendar: Easter. The chocolate companies partly displaced this with Easter Eggs and everything chocolate. We don’t really have an equivalent celebration or holiday to go and sorting out our ancestors’ graves on one particular day of the year. I suppose the closest we get is the idea of a “Spring Clean”.
Whatever your belief system, though, Spring is a magic time of the year (if is ever going to be allowed to break free from the cold clutches of winter this year). It is a time of hope. A time of renewed energy. A time for cleaning those parts of your life that need cleansing. A time for being positive and leaning forward.
Spring is sprung and the green shoots are surely going to break through soon! Happy Qingming Festival – and may your ancestors’ graves be much cleaner today than they were yesterday!
Source: Wikipedia, http://www.chinatouradvisors.com (picture) and my Garden