QingMing in Oakland, California

One of many Qing Ming gatherings

Last weekend at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, there were hundreds of Chinese families observing Qingming. It is a centuries-old tradition of celebrating around the graves of dead relatives: eating, chatting and decorating the graves with flowers and plates of food. This custom is also called “Cleansing of Tombs.”

At the beginning of the movie Volver, there is a scene of women in Spain cleaning up the tombs of the deceased. And, of course, there is also the Mexican holiday, “El Día de los Muertos.” Obviously, grave rituals are common in many cultures.

It was heartening to see so many people looking both happy and thoughtful, with children playing among the graves and food being prepared.  Mountain View Cemetery is a beautiful urban space, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the famous landscape architect. On Qingming, entire hillsides were covered with flowers celebrating the lives of departed family members.

One final note: Mountain View Cemetery is home to  an abundance of wildlife, including the owls and frogs I hear  during the night, wild turkeys whose gobble-gobbles make me laugh every day, and coyotes that keep the turkey population to a reasonable size. Bella, my daughter’s dog, is a big fan of any rituals there involving food. She sneaks through the cemetery fence after hours to clean up what’s left. Thus, in this way, death sustains life….





About Alexis

Alexis Rankin Popik, author of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in The Berkshire Review and Potpourri Magazine. She has penned numerous articles about local history that have been published in Connecticut Explored and the University of Connecticut School of Law and The Hartford Seminary publications. A former union organizer, Popik traveled the country educating shipyard workers about health and safety and founded a labor-management health plan before turning to writing fiction full-time. She lives with her husband in New England.
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  1. Christina Laurie says:

    Hey Alexis!
    WHen are you coming back to Mattapoisett?
    We need to schedule another luncheon together.
    Can’t wait to catch up.

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