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Qingming Festival

The Qingming Festival (also the Tomb-sweeping Day) meaning Clear and Bright Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox), usually occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar (Chinese lunar calendar). Every leap year, Qing Ming is on April 4. astronomically, it is also a solar term. In solar terms, the Qingming festival is on the 1st day of the 5th solar term, which is also named Qingming. Its name denotes a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime, and also to tend to the graves of departed ones.

Qingming is a statutory public holiday in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. It has long been a public holiday in the latter three jurisdictions, but became a public holiday in mainland China in 2008 for the first time since 1949.

For the Chinese, it is a day to remember and honor one's ancestors at grave sites. Chinese believe that the souls of their departed ancestors are the ones that look after the family. Hence, the departed souls are appeased with fruits, wine and other offerings which will keep them happy in the afterlife. In turn, it is believed that the departed souls will look after the continued prosperity of the family.

Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, (joss) paper accessories, and/or libation to the ancestors. The rites are very important to most Chinese and especially farmers. Some people carry willow branches with them on Qingming, or put willow branches on their gates and/or front doors. They think that willow branches help ward off the evil ghosts that wander on Qingming.

In earlier years, the festival was celebrated by singing, dancing and breaking eggs which symbolized the start of a new life. The Tomb Sweeping Day celebrations in the modern day include a lot of outdoor leisure activities. Traditionally, it is a day for observing fast and then breaking it by eating cold food. So, people take part in various outdoor activities so that the adverse effects of eating cold food can be countered. Going for walks, flying kites and swinging are some of the common activities that are popular among people these days. The crisp spring weather is enjoyed and the change of season from spring to summer is welcomed with all the merrymaking and games.

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