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By: Juilianne Abrahm

The Qing Ming festival is a traditional Chinese event held on the 104th day after the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It generally falls around the same time as Easter - give or take some weeks.

I find this interesting given that both festivals, whilst from different cultural and religious belief systems, celebrates life that was - and calls forth the new. The feast day of Easter was originally a pagan celebration of renewal and rebirth. Celebrated in the early spring, it honored the pagan Saxon Goddess Eastre.

When the early missionaries converted the Saxons to Christianity, this holiday, since it fell around the same time as the traditional memorial of Christ's resurrection from the dead, was merged with the pagan celebration, and became know as Easter and reflected its new Christian orientation.

This year the Qing Ming festival will fall on April 5. This marks the fifth term in the traditional lunar calendar and a is also a time to hold a memorial ceremony for those relatives who have passed away.

The Chinese community place great emphasis on their ancestors. However, it is not considered a solemn occasion, but rather, a time of remembrance for those who have moved on. It is a time for 'happy unison' with other family members along with a demonstration of respect to your ancestors.

At this time of the year, individuals or entire families, often go to sweep and weed graves. This custom can be traced back to over one thousand years ago. In fact, during the Tang Dynasty (732AD), the custom of taking an outing such as walking the hills with the family, or having a picnic, on this particular day, were developed. During this period it was also declared that just one special day a year would be devoted to this purpose.

To "sweep the graves" means to clear the graves of all the leaves and weeds and repaint the inscriptions. Then food such as fruit, rice, wine, chicken, pork, cakes, in fact any favorite foods of the ancestors, will be placed around the grave. Paper money will also be burned, candles lit and the whole family kneels to pay respect. After prayers, the food is usually consumed by the descendants, as a part of the grave sweeping ceremony. These acts are not only considered to be declarations of respect but also deeds that will bring the filial descendants a fortunate life and good health. Health is often something we take for granted and is only dwelled upon when we, or a loved one, falls ill.

Feng Shui helps to improve poor health and maintain good health. There are also a number of products that can offer symbolic support of this endeavor. The Natural Health Gourd is one of the items carried by the eight fairies and is said to contain the holy nectar of the Gods. I gave this to my mother some years ago as the Gourd is symbolic of longevity and works well when placed around the knob of your bedroom door or even at the main entrance to your home. If I have learned anything over the years it is to enjoy the company of those I love while I have the chance to share in their lives. The Qing Ming festival lets you remember your loved ones who have passed away, and reminds you that you must continue making happy memories with those who are still with you.

We would like to thank you for your continued support and wish you and your family, all the best over the Easter period and Qing Ming festival. We hope you use this time of year to give thanks and respect for what has been, and at the same time to bring in the new and enjoy the richness of life. 

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