The Festival of Pure Brightness is a Chinese holiday that encapsulates the true duality of life. Known also as “Tomb Sweeping Day”, this is a day where life and death collide. We mourn our dead, we make sacrifices upon the altar, and we welcome the rebirth of the world through springtime.
This is a time of year for the Chinese where the veil is particularly thin. Crowds gather at cemeteries to burn incense and make offerings to the deceased, their ancestors, and the spirits. No food is allowed to be cooked, thus, all food must be served cold. The day is for both quiet contemplation and joyous celebration.
On this day, you’re responsible for cleaning the tombs; sweeping away all debris and dust, and setting out a fresh offering, usually of the favorites of the deceased. This is to show thoughtfulness and care, in hopes that the spirits of your ancestors are resting well, and that you, too, may one day receive this courtesy from your descendants.
This is of great importance, as the ancestors watch over the people, serving as guides for the living. In times of need they can provide great wisdom. In times of duress, they can provide both shield and sword. To show disrespect to the spirits on this day is not advised.
On the other hand, it is a day renowned for kite flying. While kites are normally permitted during the day, in China, they are also permitted at night for just this day. Often times, the kites are strung with beautiful luminescent lanterns known as “God’s Lanterns”, and they carry hopes and prayers along the wind, combined with the breath of the ancestors, to greater heights.
It is customary to carry willow branches during the festival, or to adorn your house or gates in them to ward off evil spirits. Surprisingly, the correlation to the celtic-druidic traditions of willows is strong, as the willow, no matter the culture, carries such strong magical and spiritual properties within its boughs.
As the festival falls on the new Moon, be sure not to overlook the symbolic importance! Chinese culture holds the Moon in high regard, such as the saying: “Marriages are made in heaven and prepared on the Moon!” The old man of the moon “Lue Yang”, has a record of all the names of newborn babies and the names of their future partners; the decision cannot be fought. Thus, shortly after the Festival of Pure Brightness, it is not uncommon to see new couples begin their courtships. With the arrival of spring, and the mysterious new moon waiting to show herself, romance is in the air.
The Festival of Pure Brightness calls us to sacrifice and celebrate. It asks us to reflect upon our mortality, and since the veil rests at such a thin state, due to the congregation of spirits, our hopes, prayers, and spells carry so much more weight. The power from beyond, when channeled properly, can manifest more potently when the spirits are in harmony with the living. Since 732 AD, this festival has continued each year, 15 days after the Spring Equinox, and has lasted for centuries. Such time honored traditions come with a spiritual abundance of power that pushes all our hopes and dreams skyward, carried up by the very breath of the Gods.