Ching Ming, Chicago-style

April 3, 2012

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The first tastes of spring may be marked by ramps, smelts, or even food trucks these days, but for thousands of years, for billions of Chinese around the world—including the diaspora in Chicago—they're heralded with the aroma of incense.

This year Ching Ming falls on April 4, as it follows the lunar calendar. It's a day of ancestor worship, when families visit cemeteries to clean gravesites and offer favorite food and drink.
 
Despite the setting, it's not a solemn day, but one to gather and hopefully enjoy the weather outside. One of the idiomatic translations for the day is to literally "walk the mountain". In the greater Chicagoland area there are a few cemeteries with Chinese sections. One of the most notable now is Mt. Auburn, southwest of the city.
 
Traditionally families might picnic at their family tombs, or you might see an influx at Chinese restaurants in nearby Westmont—like Katy's, famous for their hand-pulled noodles.
 
You'll see a wide variety of food and drink offerings, usually including oranges which symbolize gold and luck. What food or drink would you want on your tombstone?