Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why your favourite Chinese BBQ shop is busy today! It's Qing Ming Festival!

Which BBQ Items does my family buy for Qing Ming?
Find out along 2nd Chinatown Foodies Walk (April 3, 2011)
or Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & Grange Walk (April 5, 2011)
or Lost 1st Chinatown Foodies Walk (April 10, 2011)
Qing Ming literally means "pure and clean" in the Cantonese dialect.  Qing Ming Festival follows the traditional lunar calendar, so it falls exactly 106 days after the winter solstice. In 2011, it falls on Tuesday April 5th.  When it's a Leap Year, as is the case in 2012, it will fall on Wednesday April 4th.  Qing Ming Festival is considered to be a little-known Chinese ghost festival as Chinese families  hold memorial ceremonies for the dead relatives.   Tomb Sweeping Day is another name for this day.  Its name harkens to the time when Chinese families traditionally visit their ancestor's graves in the countryside or up in the mountainside, and actually perform spring cleaning or tomb sweeping. Food and other offerings for the departed are brought along to these visits. 

In China, by this time of the year,  the weather is mild and after the graves have been tidied and the proper respects paid, most families spoil themselves with a picnic of cold food prepared in advance. Only cold food is eaten out of respect for the dead. As a matter of fact, traditionally, no fires are lit in the homes for at least two days thanks to superstitions! 
In Canada however, the type of weather one experiences depends on where one lives.  The weather can be mild and pleasant for a picnic, as in the case of Vancouver, B.C. or frightfully cold and muddy as in the case of Toronto, despite the moderating effects of Lake Ontario! 
Both of my parents have several ancestors buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. My siblings and I are "technically fourth generation Canadian-Chineses" and my good old mom, who arrived in Toronto in early 1950s, is a very pragmatic person when it comes to the oft-not co-operative weather. We tend to not to be trekking around in the beautifully groomed Mount Pleasant Cemetery until school is out. Any time between late June until August, you'll find my family jumping into the family car, drive over to Toronto's second Chinatown to pick-up specific food items from our favourite Chinese BBQ shop, bakery and grocery store. Did you know there's a certain "code word" you need to say to get a certain cut from the BBQ shop? (find out on the ghost walk tonight while sampling the treats!) Then you'll see us head over to Mount Pleasant Cemetery with our bounties to pay respect for our ancestors. 
So if you notice some of the Chinese BBQ shops are a trifle bit busier than normal today, it could be the die-hard traditionalists still practising Qing Ming Festival on the actual day, instead of waiting for warmer days like my pragmatic  and perhaps, more "Canadianized" family!
Dying to find out the customs, rituals and changing traditions connected with Qing Ming? Well, you still have two chances left for 2011!  As a matter of fact, we'll be sampling some of my family's favourite BBQ items and pastries along the Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & The Grange Walk (Tuesday April 5th, 2011 6:30-9:00 PM) and along the Lost First Chinatown Foodies Walk (Sunday April 10th, 2011 10:00 AM-1:30 PM). Space is limited, so book sooner than later to avoid being disappointed! Call (416) 923-6813 or e-mail us at info@torontowalksbikes.com to book your spots!

White-Cut Chicken served with
Grated Ginger & Diced Green Onion

1 comment:

  1. Results for Poll: What's Your Favourite Chinese BBQ Item?

    71% Char Siu (BBQ Pork Strips)
    40% Peking Duck
    15% Roast Pork with Crackling