Today is a holiday in Taiwan.
Actually, in Taiwan it is a holiday AND a day of recognition. The holiday is called (in English) Tomb Sweep Day, based on the lunar calendar. The day of recognition (based on the solar calendar) is Children’s Day.
As a side note, I find it interesting that April 4 is recognized as Children’s Day. I don’t remember such a day while growing up in Canada, so I’m a little bewildered by this day of recognition. Family, and children in particular, are almost revered in Taiwanese culture. A friend of mine told me once that when a baby boy is born, he is born from a golden egg. Makes me wonder what precious metal is assigned to girls! Anyway, the number four is considered a bad luck number. Hospitals don’t have a 4th floor, or rooms with ‘4’. The word for the number four and the word for dead or death sound similar.
It is difficult to find anything, be it a tea set to an apartment, that has 4 of anything. I honestly can’t say I know any family that has four or more children. The most I’ve seen is three. Then again, I don’t know everyone in Taiwan, so I’m sure somewhere, there is some family living here with four children. So, since April is the fourth month, and the fourth day of the fourth month is Children’s Day… well, you can understand my humourous thoughts.
Unlike many other celebrations in Taiwan that I’m aware of, this one is a little more bewildering. Today is the 14th day of the 3rd month of the lunar cycle. Most people would say that it is March 14, but since the real translation for today is 3 month 14 day, and that there is no Chinese translation for MARCH to my knowledge, than for people to say this is March 14 is incorrect. Nonetheless, today is reserved as Tomb Sweep Day.
As in North America, as this is a national holiday, governments, schools, and some larger businesses close down today. Other places of business just tend to consider it another day, so they are still open.
The closest thing we in North America celebrate in lieu of Tomb Sweep Day, would be Remembrance Day. For us, we celebrate and honour those that died in war. Over the years, other wars were included in this celebration, again, to honour ALL those who have fought and paid the ultimate price, for our freedom.
Tomb Sweep Day honours relatives. Those in the family who have passed on. From my understand, families will visit the ‘resting place’ of their past ancestors. The gravesites will be cleaned, weeds pulled, incense burned, offerings of food and ‘money’… The only reference that I could find on Wikipedia.org is as follows:
Ancestral veneration in Chinese culture (Chinese: 敬祖; pinyin: jìngzǔ) is the practice of living family members who try to provide a deceased family member with continuous happiness and well-being in the afterlife. It is a way of continuing to show respect toward them, and it reinforces the unity of family and lineage. Showing respect to ancestors is an ideology deeply rooted in Chinese society. It is based on the idea of filial piety (孝, xiào) put forth by Confucius. Filial piety is the concept of remaining loyal to parents as their child. It is believed that despite the death of a loved one, the original relationship remains intact, and that the deceased possess more spiritual power than they did during life. In a sense, the ancestors became thought of as deities who had the ability to interact and have an effect on the lives of those still living.
The core belief of ancestor veneration is that there is a continued existence after death. It is thought that the soul of a deceased person is made up of yin and yang components called hun and po. The yin component, po (魄), is associated with the grave, and the yang component, hun (魂), is associated with ancestral tablets . According to this belief, at death the components split into three different souls; the po goes with the body to the grave, one to judgment, and the hun resides in an ancestral tablet. The hun and po are not immortal and need to be nourished; it is the offerings that feed them. Eventually both the hun and po go to the underworld, although the hun goes to heaven first. Unlike in western usages of the term, underworld has no negative connotation.
The state of ancestor veneration in modern day China is reported to be declining in areas that were more heavily affected by the hostility towards religion under the Communist regime. However, in rural areas of China, as well as Taiwan, ancestor worship and its practices can still be commonly found.
For me, being a NON Chinese person, today is just a day off. A day to get more of the renovations done.
That’s it, that’s all… for now!