Three years ago, the Chinese government decided to shorten the 5-day May Holiday (Labor Day) and mix in a few 1-day holidays dispersed throughout the year.
One of these added holidays was Qing Ming Jie, or Tomb Sweeping Festival, held on April 5.
This traditional Chinese day was set aside for relatives to return to their countryside homes to clean the tombs of their ancestors. At that time, many people were buried deep in the mountainsides where a full year of weeds and brush had built up. Family members returned to gravesites to tidy things up, light incense, burn paper money for the dead to spend in heaven and set off firecrackers to ward away evil spirits. It was a very important part of honoring the dead.
This was never a holiday before so most people just chose a day closest to April 5 to pay their respects or didn’t bother. But now with the holiday, students and distant family members are able to travel back to their hometowns for their traditional day of remembrance.
This year, April 5 is on Monday.
It’s an official holiday with schools and government offices being closed. For our school, an added Tuesday off was given so students would have a chance to participate in gatherings on Monday, then have Tuesday to travel back to school.
As always in Chinese schools, however, an unofficial day off must be made up. Thus Saturday, we had make-up classes for those courses we would miss on Tuesday.
My students came to lessons this morning in a rather dismal mood due to the chilly rain and dreary weather. They also came in rather slim numbers. Quite a few had left for home the day before after asking for leave from departmental heads. Those who stayed live too far away for their Tomb Sweeping activities so they are stuck here on our small campus to sleep and eat away the next 3 days.
I’m sure they’d love to be in the computer cafes, surfing the Net and chatting online with friends, but once again, we find ourselves without electricity.
Rumor has it that Sunday will give us the same meiyou dian experience with illumination taking place around 7:30 p.m. after 12 hours doing without.
Despite doing without, seemingly forced upon me as my sacrifice for lent, my Easter Sunday will still be a joyous one. I’m not about to let meiyou dian spoil my “He is Risen!” moment.
Many blessings for Easter and hoping this Resurrection Day, shared with your loved ones and church community, is a memorable one.
From Longzhou, China — Ping An (Peace)!