Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Tomb Sweeping Day

Have you ever heard of this traditional Chinese Holiday? It was new to me. David told me that a counterpart of his from work in China had sent him an email that she was out of the office for tomb sweeping day.

How ironic is it? Yesterday, as Christians, we celebrated the empty tomb left behind Jesus as He was resurrected to new life. In fact our faith relies on the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead and is Lord over all!

Do you know the story of Aslan from CS Lewis' Narnia series? When he is about to turn himself over to the White Witch to be killed by her as a brutal sacrifice in return for the life of Edmund, he refers to the "deep magic" with which the White Witch was not familiar. That deep magic said that a perfect, willing sacrifice would suffice to pay the debt that Edmund, a son of man, owed to the White Witch. The deep magic meant that the witch's brutal murder of Aslan would not hold him to death. In the story, after he is killed and the Witch has celebrated her victory over Aslan, she and her ensemble of hoodlums leave Aslan's body on the stone table. Alone on the table, the deep magic begins to take hold; the earth rumbles, the ancient stone table cracks in half, and Aslan roars to life!

Perhaps this Chinese tradition of sweeping the tombs of long dead ancestors is rooted more deeply in the "deep magic" than anyone can truly know!

Jesus, the son of God, willingly gave His life as a perfect, sinless sacrifice; once for all, to pay all sin debts. The fact that he did not stay dead proves that God accepted this sacrifice as payment. No longer do sacrifices need to be made! No longer do we need fear the power of sin and death. For as long as we belong to Jesus; there is no condemnation! Aslan was CS Lewis' allegory of the life of Christ.

Hallelujah! Christ is risen indeed!

Here is some more information on tomb sweeping day. I found this in a quick internet search. Any spelling mistakes, are not mine!

Celebrated two weeks after the vernal equinox, Tomb Sweeping Day is one of the few traditional Chinese holidays that follows the solar calendar-- typically falling on April 4, 5, or 6. Its Chinese name "Qing Ming" literally means "Clear Brightness," hinting at its importance as a celebration of Spring. Similar to the spring festivals of other cultures, Tomb Sweeping Day celebrates the rebirth of nature, while marking the beginning of the planting season and other outdoor activities.

Qing Ming Jie in Ancient Times
In ancient times, people celebrated Qing Ming Jie with dancing, singing, picnics, and kite flying. Colored boiled eggs would be broken to symbolize the opening of life. In the capital, the Emperor would plant trees on the palace grounds to celebrate the renewing nature of spring. In the villages, young men and women would court each other.

The Tomb Sweeping Day as Celebrated Today
With the passing of time, this celebration of life became a day to the honor past ancestors. Following folk religion, the Chinese believed that the spirits of deceased ancestors looked after the family. Sacrifices of food and spirit money could keep them happy, and the family would prosper through good harvests and more children.

Today, Chinese visit their family graves to tend to any underbrush that has grown. Weeds are pulled, and dirt swept away, and the family will set out offerings of food and spirit money. Unlike the sacrifices at a family's home altar, the offerings at the tomb usually consist of dry, bland food. One theory is that since any number of ghosts roam around a grave area, the less appealing food will be consumed by the ancestors, and not be plundered by strangers.

Honoring Ancestors
Honoring ancestors begins with proper positioning of a grave site and coffin. Experts in feng shui, or geomancy, determine the quality of land by the surrounding aspects of streams, rivers, trees, hills, and so forth. An area that faces south, with groves of pine trees creates the best flow of cosmic energy required to keep ancestors happy. Unfortunately, nowadays, with China's burgeoning population, public cemeteries have quickly supplanted private grave sites. Family elders will visit the grave site at least once a year to tend to the tombs.

While bland food is placed by the tombs on Qing Ming Jie, the Chinese regularly provide scrumptious offerings to their ancestors at altar tables in their homes. The food usually consists of chicken, eggs, or other dishes a deceased ancestor was fond of. Accompanied by rice, the dishes and eating utensils are carefully arranged so as to bring good luck. Sometimes, a family will put burning incense with the offering so as to expedite the transfer of nutritious elements to the ancestors. In some parts of China, the food is then eaten by the entire family.

Besides the traditions of honoring the dead, people also often fly kits on Tomb Sweeping Day. Kites can come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. Designs could include frogs, dragonflies, butterflies, crabs, bats, and storks.

No comments: