HAVANA, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Cuba's Chinese residents on Sunday paid tribute to their ancestors and dearly departed as part of the traditional Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day.
Dozens of Cuban families of Chinese descent went to the Chinese cemetery in Havana laden with offerings of food, drink and flowers.
"For the descendants of the Chinese, this day is important because it means spending time with our ancestors and offering them what we can. We bow to them (and) we burn symbolic money and incense so that they have prosperity in their afterlife," said Mercedes Wong, who observes the traditional festival.
The Qingming Festival is unique in Cuba as the offerings feature classic Caribbean fare, such as roasted pigs, famed Havana Club rum and the national flower, the White Ginger, known here as the butterfly flower due to its delicate winglike petals.
"It is very important to maintain these traditions because the Chinese here in Cuba played a very important role in the independence of the country in the 19th century, and therefore the young people should follow that example," retired general Guillermo Chui told Xinhua.
Qingming is customarily celebrated on the first day of the fifth solar period of the traditional Chinese calendar, or 15 days after the Spring Equinox, which usually means it falls on April 4 or 5. However, in Cuba it is celebrated on the first Sunday in April.
At the cemetery, the various organizations and societies that make up the Chinese community in Cuba laid floral wreaths in honor of their ancestors in front of a sign that illustrates the struggle of the Chinese on the island.
"It is a day to honor our ancestors, but it is a happy day because the gates of heaven are open and we offer drink, food and paper money to burn, and that energy goes to our ancestors," Mitzy Espinoza said.
Qingming, which means "clear and bright," also marks the arrival of spring and a farewell to the winter season.
Earlier in the day, members of the Chinese community also paid tribute to ancestors, who fought in Cuba's wars of independence, at a monument in their honor in Havana.