Ching Ming Festival

Interviewer: Do you have any traditions or ceremonies that you and your family perform or engage in? Any holidays that are unique to your culture that you celebrate.


Informant: The celebration is Ching Ming festival. And I have been doing it with my family since I was born.  And basically you go to the cemeteries in which your ancestors or your elders are buried, sometimes they aren’t directly related to you.  But there are specific days in Chinese culture when you go to the graves and do this, but my grandmother chooses a different day for our family because she doesn’t want to go when it’s too crowded. But we bring things for the grave, fake and real flowers, we normally do yellow rose and red roses and we have a system of who we see first.  We go to the grave and we clean it and replace the flowers and then you bow in front of the grave.  We start with my grandmother’s side first and then continue to my grandfather’s side.  And at the last grave, which is traditionally my grandfather’s parents, we have a meal.  Some families have their meal like in the car at the cemetery or in another location that isn’t the literal grave, but my family eats directly at the grave because it’s my family, my uncle’s family and my grandparents. And we usually have a little celebration and lay the food out and we bring a pot and put fake money in it and we burn the fake money and incense and then we have small firecrackers.  And then when you bow at this grave you say something to your elders or the people you are honoring.  And then we eat.  Usually it is a wide variety of dim sum including different dumplings and dishes that we order before and bring.  When we finish eating at the grave then we go out to lunch or early dinner and eat again.  The whole process takes the whole day.  And each year it is a different day and that day is somewhat mandatory, like you don’t not go.


Interviewer: Did your grandmother do this when she was young?


Informant: My mom used to do it when she was little and then my grandparents immigrated from China so I’m not sure if the process is the same in China but this is our version.


Interviewer: So what does it mean to you?


Informant: Well I haven’t met all of the relatives or elders that we visit, but you bow anyway as a sign of honor.  So it’s more about respecting and honoring the dead because they are a part of you and watching over you. And my great-grandmother recently died and now when we do this ceremony we include her in the graves that we visit.


Background: Amanda Fornataro is a Junior studying at USC and is my roommate.  Her grandparents immigrated from China and brought many traditions with them.  She consulted with her mother and grandmother when giving the account since it wasn’t possible to see the ceremony live. This ceremony is very meaningful and she is usually home to experience it with her family and flew home in February to celebrate.  It is an important belief and cornerstone of Chinese culture to honor your ancestors.

Context: I interviewed Amanda during the week after hearing about the ceremony in previous conversation.  She first started the ceremony when she was small and has carried it on to today and even as her older relatives pass on, they too become part of the tradition. It has traveled from her grandmother to her mother to her.

Analysis: hearing about the ceremony was very interesting.  I have seen and heard about variations of the tradition before but it was great to hear about it from someone who actually performs the ceremony. It also exemplified a belief in the importance of generational traditions and how the variations make more unique to each family.  Like how there are designated days for this ceremony but that Amanda’s grandmother likes to go when it is less quiet is something that makes the tradition even more special to her own family.