Qingming Celebration

Qingming Festival

Salem Pioneer Cemetery Entrance, Hoyt Street and Skopil Avenue S., Salem

The Chinese festival of Qingming, celebrated annually in early April (the 15th day after the March equinox), is an opportunity to remember those who have died.  It is traditionally celebrated by visits to cemeteries and the sweeping of grave sites and offerings.  Thanks to the work of historian and Keizertimes reporter Ann Lossner and the memories of former Salem and Keizer resident Suie Lai Sun, we know a lot about how Qingming was celebrated in the Salem-Keizer area 100 years ago.  Before the holiday, businesses in Salem would begin collecting money from the community to purchase food and other supplies, which were taken to Salem’s Pioneer cemetery by wagon on the day of the festival where there was a slab table and open oven where candles and incense were lit and food and drink put out.  As Suie Lai Sun remembered: “Then the men knelt and recited prayers for the dead. Rising, they folded each specially shaped paper around a narrow strip of paper in an intricate manner, bowed three times, lighted the paper from the candles, bowed again, and tossed the burning paper into the oven.”  Some food was left as an offering in the cemetery, but most was taken back to town and shared. 

In 2017, the concrete slab used as an offering table in these yearly celebrations was rediscovered in the Salem Pioneer Cemetery and through an archaeological investigation uncovered.  The City of Salem and community partners reinstituted an annual celebration of the festival in 2018.  The annual celebration at Salem’s Pioneer Cemetery and a new opportunity to celebrate at Keizer’s Claggett Cemetery are part of this year’s community Qingming celebrations.