Qingming festival originated from Hanshi Day (literally, Day with cold food only), a memorial day for Jie Zitui who was a faithful man during the Warring States Period. Qingming has a tradition stretching back more than 2,500 years. Its origin is credited to the Tang Emperor Xuanzong in 732. In Tang Dynasty, wealthy citizens preferred using high price to hold expensive ceremonies in honour to their ancestors. This emperor urged people to honour the ancestors on this day to avoid extravagant and waste. Since that time, Qingming Festival became a public day.
In the past, because of the familism, people would be a bit mournful on this day. Generally, young and old would pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories and libation to the ancestors. Some people, especially farmers, would carry willow branches with them on Qingming, or put willow branches on their gates or front door. They believed that willow branches help ward off the evil spirit that wanders on Qingming. This day was also a start of the spring plowing. Today, Qingming Festival has changed a lot.
The sad atmosphere decrease and there are more laugh and fun. After sweeping the tombs, little kids will fly kite on the grass and adults like gather together to have a nice talk. This day is also a family day. People will have a feast with the whole family on this day and even find out some strange faces. In some places, like coastal cities, the memorial way changes a lot as well. No more burning joss paper, no more a load of food, people just carry a bunch of flower to express their honour to the departed because they pay more attention to give thanks during his festival. From ancient times to nowadays, Qingming Festival witnessed history of the Chinese. It is reminding people the duty of themselves, instructing the way of they live and even affecting the morality of the society. Not only the native Chinese but also the overseas Chinese communities are maintaining their origins by celebrating this day. No matter how people change their attitude, from one generation to another, this traditional festival always alarms us: remember the filial piety and learn to be grateful to the world.
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