Ancestor worship is a Chinese tradition dating back thousands of years.
Also known as the Grave-sweeping or Spring Remembrance, Ching Ming ("clear and bright"), is when Chinese families show their respect by visiting the graves of their ancestors to clear away weeds, touch up gravestone inscriptions and make offerings of wine and fruit.
A Chinese holiday, celbrated on April 5th, is the Ching Ming Festival (aka Qingming Festival.) Ching, in Chinese, means pure or clean and Ming means brightness. Most people call this holiday grave-sweeping day because people head to the cemetery to clean graves.
There are many Ching Ming rituals which include pulling out weeds around the headstone, cleaning the stone and replacing wilted or dead flowers with fresh ones. People also burn incense and paper money. The paper money is for the deceased to use in the afterlife. You"ll even see food arranged on headstones but it"s not a picnic. The food is an offering to the spirits. Three sets of chopsticks and three Chinese wine cups are also placed above the food, close to the headstone.
Other rituals include family members pouring wine on the grave or setting off firecrackers to scare away evil spirits. The firecrackers also let deceased loved ones know they"re there to pay their respects. Legend has it that unhappy spirits wander the earth on Ching Ming day. It"s considered bad luck to do important business or have an operation on April 5th. Stick to hanging out in the cemetery and offering your ancestors food and fake money.
The practice of ancestor worship is based on three beliefs:
1) that a person"s good or bad fortune is influenced by the souls of his or her ancestors;
2) that all departed ancestors have the same material needs they had when alive; and
3) that the departed can assist their living relatives.