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The Qingming Festival (think: the Chinese Día de los Muertos), is a good time to talk with your kids about death positivity, honoring the contributions of our ancestors, and cross-cultural traditions in ancestor veneration.
On this day, our family heads to the graveyard where we clean up our loved ones graves, set stuff on fire, and share snacks with the dead. Given that it’s a low-key holiday here, there is something reassuringly weird and comforting about doing it in the US – where setting fires and snacking in a graveyard is normally taboo.
So far, I can’t find any books in English to help kids understand the concepts behind Qingming Festival, tomb-sweeping, or even ancestor veneration. So we’ve cobbled this collection on children’s stories for Qingming (covers some of the values, if not the actual practices) to read each year as we share stories of our ancestors and appreciate the life they made possible for us.
When is it?
- 15th day after the spring equinox, which usually falls sometime between April 4-6
- The Most Beautiful Thing (ages 5+)
- The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee (ages 4-8)
- Watercress (ages 4-8)
- Qingming responsibilities
- Why we observe Qingming
- Folding yuan bao (simple enough for 4+)
- Folding yuan bao ( more advanced for ages 8+)
Discuss: Decolonizing Death
- What decisions and sacrifices did our ancestors make so we could have opportunities today?
- How does our family acknowledge the contributions of our ancestors?
- How do people around the world acknowledge and stay connected with ancestors who have died? What’s traditions do people use to stay connected with the dead? (HINT: Death positivity, FOOD and SETTING STUFF ON FIRE is usually involved!)
- Ask an elder in your family or community if they are willing to do an ancestor interview – where your kids can ask questions about their life as a child, what they remember of their own elders, and for stories they are willing to pass down.
- Non-Chinese folks: Confused about cultural appreciation vs. appropriation?
If you don’t have a family holiday centering death, or want an excuse to visit and never get around to it, consider this permission to appreciate the sentiment. Go clean your ancestors’ graves and have a snack in their honor. Maybe don’t make offerings or burn stuff if you don’t know what all that is about though.
More resources to dig deeper
- Children’s Books for Qingming
- Childrens books on Death Positivity
- Supporting kids through the death of a friend
- Supporting kids through the death of a grandparent
- October Resource Roundup: Exploring Death Positivity
- Check out the Día de lost Muertos book collection if you’d like to compare & contrast – that’s one of the few non-European holidays that gets plenty of traction in kidlit.
Qingming – marking a spring of acknowledgement & transitions
Ready for some gentle change?
Today is Qingming. We take this day to acknowledge the contributions of those who have made our lives easier. We make sure our people are cared for, pay our respects – and hold space for both the grief and joy that comes with a new spring.
As our family heads to the cemetery for a light tomb sweeping and contained arson,* we also take this time to model the choices we’d like to see our kids take one day.
Tomb sweeping: cleaning out the stuff that clouds our judgement
You know – that film that coats everything throughout the year. The stuff we continue to do not because it’s helping anyone – but just because it’s a part of our routine. The stuff that settled into the cracks of our lives, and we just ignore it or incorporate it because stopping to scrape it off would be too cumbersome – or too painful.
I hesitate to call it ‘debris’ because the matter and dust that we need to clean out can sometimes be *good stuff.* The problem with *good stuff* is that it can get distracting from what really matters.
In fact – we’re even starting a new segment on the podcast: Good Ideas To Avoid – all the great ideas that we could totally pull off if we put our minds to it – except for the fact that we already have a mission & objective, and all those Good Ideas can pile up and spread us thin if we don’t scrape them off.
As we honor the Year of the Tiger – the year of changes – I’m not doing one-sided work anymore.
I’ll be rolling out small changes each month, and plan to keep you in the loop. Here’s what to expect this April:
1. Tier updates
Now that the Luminary Brain Trust and the BFL website has like ten times the content and resources as when we started out, rates are doubling on April 30th.
You can sign up before then to get grandfathered in at the lower rates. Nothing will change for existing members.
2. A new type of reciprocal relationship between us
Through the spring & summer, I’ll be phasing out Patreon updates like this one, and moving our ‘Hey here’s the latest thing I made for you’ updates into weekly updates on our Revue newsletter.
Sign up for this newsletter only if you want to get weekly notifications. These will be simple: Monthly updates when I add new content to our Resource Roundups, and a weekly updates when we publish a new podcast.
This newsletter will kick off a new way for how we work together. I ask that subscribers not be passive consumers, but active collaborators with me in sustainable reciprocity.
There will be 3 ways to reciprocate: Pick one!**
- Donate: While the newsletter is free – there is an option to donate $5/month to support my labor and effort for those who live comfortably to afford food, housing, shelter, and savings.
- Feedback: For those who are willing and able, I ask that members respond to my newsletter at least once a month to let me know: What’s working for you, what’s not resonating, or ideas and advice on how to improve our resources and make them more accessible.
- One click: Every newsletter asks ‘Did you enjoy this issue?’ All you have to do is click ‘yes‘ or ‘no.‘
It’s time we protected ourselves, gently, and with kindness.
It’s a kindness – and it takes courage!!! – to be clear about what we need, and the consequences of non-reciprocation. But we need to be kind and courageous so the people who care & collaborate with us can show up.
So… there will now be a cost to using ‘subscribing’ as a performative action.
Folks who don’t open the newsletter (or do the bare-minimum of a one-click) will be removed from the newsletter after 3 months of activity. No hard feelings, it’s just that there’s a cost to me when this work is one sided. And you can always re-subscribe anytime.
Here’s how non-reciprocity hurts me:
- That feeling of ‘shouting into the void‘ and hearing nothing back is really hurting my mental health.
- Working without pay, also harmful!
- Even letting newsletters sit in our inboxes, unopened, un-clicked – that tells apps to shift my messages to the spam folder.
And if you’d like to get started right now – I’d love to hear from you
(leave a comment, it’s a gift for us!)
How are you harmed by failing to clarify your boundaries and your needs?
What responsibility do you have to communicate our needs – so we can show up for you?
Coming up next:
Join When We Gather – Bellamy has lots of good, juicy stuff for you in her new membership program. And you bet your bananas I’m gonna be right there for the shenanigans. Join me!
Meanwhile, enjoy the new weekly episodes of our Spring podcast.
Sign up for free (all it costs is one click a week!) to get notifications when new episodes go live.
“I read the podcast transcript. Oh my gosh. Never have two people had such a good time talking about such terrible things“
* All the best Chinese holidays involve lighting shit on fire. It’s how we do.
** You can reciprocate in multiple ways if you like, but it’s best to start small and ramp up later. Don’t over-commit! I want our relationship to be healthy and happy, not stressed out or resent-y.