Tomb Sweeping Festival
This family holiday is over 2,500 years old and practiced all over East Asia. Tomb Sweeping Festival occurs around the first weekend in April and is marked by family members visiting the graves of their ancestors. Just like the name implies, the family members “sweep” or clean around the graves. They pull weeds, plant flowers, tell stories about their deceased relatives and then leave “gifts” for them. The presents they leave at the tomb are paper photos of money, fancy houses, cars, boats, etc. Then they burn these pictures as offerings that they believe will make their ancestors happy and rich.
The family is also to pray and offer sacrifices to keep evil spirits away. Usually a chicken is sacrificed, as it is thought that killing a chicken keeps ghosts away.
This holiday is like an all-day picnic as people arrive early in the morning to begin their work and depart at sunset. It is both a time of fun and a time of deep spiritual meaning.
It is considered to be a great dishonor to not join the family in cleaning the ancestor’s tombs as well as worship and sacrificing to the dead. For Chinese who have become Christians it can be difficult to know how to observe this holiday but also honor God. Many Chinese family members will visit the grave-sites but their prayers will be for the living relatives that they may come to know God and his love and forgiveness.