Clear and Bright at Green-Wood Cemetery

By UrbanAnthropod, April 12, 2010 8:16 am


April 4/5 on the Gregorian calendar marks the beginning of Qingming. This is the start of the Qingming Festival, also known as the Clear and Bright Festival. Qingming is the Spring visit to the cemetery to tend to the graves of ancestors. Honoring our ancestors at their grave sites seems in-line with celebrating the beginning of the Spring season as the world is renewed. In my family, we go through the rites associated with the holiday weeks in advance to avoid large crowding at the cemetery. Crowding has been such an issue that we were greeted with parking directors at the cemetery this year. This year, Qingming coincided with Spring festivities of Dyngus day.

Growing up American, Qingming was always incorrectly referred to as Chinese Easter. Having no connection to the resurrection of Christ, I was always a bit confused. But the celebration of Spring time –which was also lost on me in practice– and the correlation of timing does make it easier to explain it in those terms. Qingming is really a Spring remembrance day for those of us who are acculturated to the American lifestyle. The focus is on remembrance and not on rebirth or fertility as Dyngus Day or the pagan practices/symbols associated with Easter. Since I’ve always jocularly referred to Qingming as a picnic at the cemetery (due to offerings of food and wine to the ancestors), I’ve drawn closer parallels to Dia de los muertos in the fall. Indeed, Qingming is sometimes translated as All Souls Day but differentiated from the Catholic holiday.

In any case, the clear and bright refers to the greenery associated with Spring and signals a time to enjoy rejuvenated environment. What a great opportunity to go out for a walk!

Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood Cemetery Gatehouse

Green-Wood Cemetery Gatehouse

Green-Wood Cemetery resides near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It was recently added as a National Historic Landmark and is registered with the National Register of Historic Places (#97000228). Founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery, it served as a final resting place for notable New Yorkers and Brooklynites (a separate city and sets of villages back then). During the American Civil War, a lot was set aside for free burial of veterans.
Green-Wood Plaque

Plaque at Green-Wood Cemetery marking it as a historic place

I have no ancestors –that I know of– buried at Green-Wood Cemetery. I’d already made my appearances before my local ancestors weeks in advance but the pleasant weather of the day made me seek out an excursion. During my Qingming observances, I begrudgingly follow through on the rites and never have opportunity to observe others. Besides the history, there was another draw for me to visit Green-Wood.

When I got lost near Fort Lee, I came across the Edgewater flock of wild Quakers. I then learned that another flock has been taking up residence at Green-Wood since the 60s. Believed to have escaped from a container at JFK airport, these monk parakeets seem quite content to roam the cemetery grounds and nest on the Gothic gatehouse.

Green-Wood Gatehouse

Green-Wood Gatehouse. Where monk parakeets nest on the center spire.

In addition to the noisy gang that greet you at the gate of the cemetery, the manicured landscape with ponds provides an environment well suited for attracting various birds. Just a short hop away from Prospect Park, the cemetery is an easy excursion for admiring the crafted landscapes, avian sightings and for exploring a part of Brooklyn history.

I wasn't alone

I wasn't alone. A fellow avian gazer at Green-Wood.

Getting there

The R train from Atlantic Terminal stops at 25th and 4th, a block away from the cemetery.

Related posts:

  1. Return to Green-Wood
  2. No frills on these bonnets
  3. Battle of Brooklyn
  4. Getting lost across the Hudson- Fort Lee
  5. Getting Medieval

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