November 28, 2021

a Chinese and Mexican celebration – Annenberg Media

China and Mexico have collectivist cultures that prioritize the expectations of society and the family over their own desires, one-of-a-kind cuisine, and holidays dedicated to commemorating their ancestors.

The Day of the Dead, also known as the Qingming festival in China and Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, is celebrated in both countries. USC students have already started Day of the Dead celebrations ahead of the Mexican holiday on Monday.

All over China, families are getting up early to sweep cemeteries where their ancestors are buried. After cleaning the gravestone, people refresh the lettering of the painting and decorate it with fruits, symbolizing wealth, and flower arrangements of chrysanthemum, symbolizing sorrow.

Junfeng Li, a 22-year-old graduate journalism student from Chengdu, China, said the Qingming festival was one of his favorite days as a child since classes were canceled. Li said his family takes a few moments to pray to his ancestors for health and good fortune, and since he is the youngest in his family, he should kneel down to thank his elders.

“Kneeling is an unwritten rule in the tombstone ceremony for the younger generation of Chinese families,” Li said.

After that, families usually burn incense paper, also known as frankincense paper, in the form of clothing, a house, or money as a means of expressing abundance to loved ones in their life after death. However, Li said the government recently banned people from burning paper because it harms the environment.

Once the ceremonies are over and the tombstone teeming with flowers and food, families disperse to different activities.

Small families fly kites and take a walk in the countryside to enjoy the arrival of new spring flowers.

Li said that because he had a large family, consisting of 40 people, it was more convenient to make a reservation at a food market where they could spend the rest of the day eating and drinking tea together. Adults usually played games such as Madiao or Mahjong while children played hide and seek or cat.

Some of Li’s favorite childhood memories are from Qingming, as as an only child, it was the day he played the most with other children, most of whom were cousins.

In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos takes place on November 1 and 2. Classes are not canceled, but streets, schools, churches and homes across the country are celebrating by dressing up and creating altars for their deceased loved ones. Families traditionally visit the graves of their ancestors, and just like the Chinese, they clean and decorate their graves with marigolds and food. They adorn altars and tombs with colorful perforated paper known as “papel picado”, candles, bread of the dead, fruit and sugar skeletons.

Altars can be dedicated to many people, and most of the time those in their homes have various images or representations of loved ones.

Candles and marigolds are used symbolically to guide the dead to their homes due to their brightness. Bread of the dead, fruits, and sugar skeletons are all traditional treats placed next to specific foods and drinks that were loved by that person. The food is also an invitation for the deceased to have dinner with his family that evening.

Students will come to school festivals in costume or with skeletal makeup on their faces, where they will experience traditional food and activities. In large cities there are parades and dances for the public and in smaller older towns the community will come together to celebrate loved ones.

China and Mexico are known for their unique cultural identities that delight audiences around the world, but if there is something that sets them apart from other countries, it’s their celebration of the Day of the Dead.


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