清明节 The Pure Brightness Day
—— 唐 杜牧《清明》
The Pure Brightness Day
Pure Brightness Day, one of the 24 Seasonal Division Points, is also an ancient traditional festival in China. It falls in the third lunar month or around April 5th in the solar calendar, when the spring scene is radiant and enchanting and the air is clean -- hence, its name.
As the rain falls thick and fast on Pure Brightness Day,
Men and women sadly move along the way.
May I ask where I can find a pub?
The shepherd boy pointed to the distant Apricot Village.
--Tang Dynasty Du Mu's Pure Brightness
On this day, people have the custom to sweep a grave, offer sacrifices to ancestors, take an outing in the countryside and wear a willow twig on the head.
The Chinese have the tradition to respect the aged, and cherish the memory of their forefathers and respect them. Thus, when the day comes, every family will go to the countryside to hold a memorial ceremony at their ancestors?tombs. People get rid of any weeds growing around the tomb, add new earth, burn incense and offer food and paper coins to show their remembrance and respect for their ancestors. This is called "visiting a grave" or "sweeping a grave".
At this time, the grasses in the countryside are burgeoning, willows along rivers have put forth new buds; it is fresh green everywhere, a good time for an outing. In ancient times, people used to wear a willow twig in their hair at this time because it was supposed to be able to drive away ghosts and disasters. Thus, people wear willow twigs to pray for safety and happiness.
Nowadays, great changes have taken place in regard to funerals and interment. Since cremation began to be carried out and burial was abolished, there are less and less graves in the fields. But it remains a custom for the Chinese to offer sacrifices to their ancestors and go for a walk in the countryside, remembering their forefathers, breathing fresh air and appreciating the blue sky, green trees, grass and flowers.