On March 13, 2019, the Nanjing Mochou Lu Protestant Church held a seminar entitled, "Reflection about the customs and meanings of the Qingming Festival".
The seminar specifically addressed how Christians (referring to Chinese Christians) would deal with questions around the participation in traditional Chinese customs such as tomb sweeping during the Qingming Festival. Ideas were discussed, shared and exchanged.
The seminar was presided over by the director of the church, Pastor Li Lancheng. Pastor Li shared about the customs and meaning of the Qingming Festival:
First, he helped the audience realize that Qingming Festival is a season of "fixing solar terms or the days" as mentioned in the Bible. The Qingming Festival is one of the twenty-four solar terms. Qingming Festival also has its specific climatic characteristics. During this season, first, the white paulownia flowers blossom. Then the moles who like cloudy days are gone, having all returning to the underground caves. Finally, the rainbow can be seen in the sky after it rains.
Next, Pastor Li introduced the two historical stories of Jiezitui and Liu Bang, explaining the origin of the Qingming Festival customs. He introduced more than ten customs such as sweeping graves and spring tours. Sweeping the grave was originally meant to express filial piety and show remembrance. In particular, Christians should not be separated from their loved ones during the Qingming Festival because they do not take part in ancestor worship. Christians should not say "they do not worship the ancestors", but rather should say they "remember the ancestors", focusing on remembering, commemorating the ancestors' kindness, inheriting the good character of the ancestors, hoping for the future, and having the hope of a future eternal life.
After this, the discussion started. Brothers and sisters gave warm introductions and discussed the customs during the Qingming period and at times of funerals as they were relevant to the Nanjing area. The following were some conclusions from the discussion:
1. During the Qingming Festival, Christians can show their respect for their elders by sending flowers and giving money, etc.
2. During the tomb sweeping time, Christians cannot kneel down or burn paper-money, but they can go to the grave and sweep the graves (refer to scriptures: John 20:1-18), pray silently, reflect and remember, and pray for those who are still living.
3. "Can one give (or accept) a birthday bowl or a red rope after the funeral?" This depends. In fact, a "Longevity Bowl" has the meaning of "salvation" and "retention". Soap is used to "clean". A towel is used to wipe away tears. One can accept it if you are given it, however, one doesn't need to ask for it.
4. For the funeral in Christian families, one can choose to give apples (meaning "safe and secure") and cakes (meaning "step by step, higher and higher"). These represent blessings as well.
5. Can Christians step over the "fire basket" during the fire basket ceremony after the funeral? Originally it meant to "dispell bad luck". Christians should avoid this because we believe that the Lord Jesus has overcome death.
6. All that Christians do during the Qingming Festival or funerals should be out of faith. If anyone doubts and fears, don't participate because "there is no fear in love," and more importantly, because "everyone who does not act out of faith is giving place to doubts and the devil."
- Translated by Ze Wang