Qing Ming Festival

Qing Ming or Tomb Sweeping Festival in Chinese culture was ‘celebrated’ earlier this month.

An annual festival, this is a time when families pay their respects to their ancestors and literally clean their grave site. They also pay homage to the sacrifices their ancestors have made by leaving offerings of food and brightly coloured gifts.

I think it’s a lovely festival, and it makes me think of our own ancestors. When you move as much as we do, it is difficult to always return to where loved ones are buried or where their memorial plaque is.

However, over Christmas in Christchurch we had a few opportunities to pay our respects to my in-laws ancestors. For my FIL this meant a visit to the cemetery on Christmas Eve. Miss J in particular was most interested in this experience.

“Who’s living here?”… “no darling, this is where people who have died are laid to rest, where their memorial is so we can come and remember them”.

“Oh right, so what do we do?”… “well, we take flowers and and place them next to the headstone or plaque”.

Miss J promptly turned to my FIL, “So who are you remembering today?” When my FIL answered, I just love Miss J’s follow up question… “What’s your favourite memory of them?”

This made for a very interesting visit around the cemetery, not only cleaning the headstones and placing the fresh flowers, but listening to my FIL’s memories of each person. For some people he wasn’t very quick to respond, but he remembered aspects that I don’t think even my husband was aware.

For my MIL there is a seat on the Port Hills with memorials to her family, and it’s a lovely tradition that we take a bottle of bubbles up there (often around sunset) and remember them.

In my family it’s a little more complicated. My parents have moved around South Australia and currently don’t live near where their families are buried. But we always remember birthdays and anniversaries and raise a cuppa tea or a glass of wine, often toasting via skype! I find it is important to cherish these moments, it helps provide a family or heritage connection for our girls.

How do you remember your ancestors? Do you ‘visit’ with them regularly? Please do leave a comment, I would love to hear how other families remember loved ones.

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