- August 9 -

Qixi Festival - Chinese Valentine's Day

Qixi Festival (Chinese: 七夕節), also known as the Qiqiao Festival (Chinese: 乞巧節), or Double Seventh Festival, is a Chinese festival that celebrates the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in Chinese mythology. It falls on the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese...

Qixi Festival - Chinese Valentine's Day

Qixi Festival (Chinese: 七夕節), also known as the Qiqiao Festival (Chinese: 乞巧節), or Double Seventh Festival, is a Chinese festival that celebrates the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in Chinese mythology. It falls on the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese calendar.
It falls on the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese calendar. It is sometimes called the Double Seventh Festival, the Chinese Valentine's Day, or the Magpie Festival. This is an important festival, especially for young girls.

The festival originated from the romantic legend of two lovers, Zhinü and Niulang, who were the weaver maid and the cowherd, respectively. The tale of The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd has been celebrated in the Qixi Festival since the Han Dynasty. The earliest-known reference to this famous myth dates back to over 2600 years ago, which was told in a poem from the Classic of Poetry. The festival inspired Tanabata in Japan and Chilseok in Korea.

Legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu
As one of the Chinese four folk legends concerning love, the legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu features the Double Seventh Festival.

It is said that Niu Lang was a cowboy who had a kind heart even though he was without living parents. Living with his brother and brother-in-law, he was maltreated. One day, after having been driven out of his home, an old man (in fact a supernatural being), guided him to the sick cattle from heaven. With great care from Niu Lang, the cattle recovered. In order to show gratitude to Niu Lang, the cow helped him get acquainted with Zhi Nu - a fairy from the heaven. They fell in love with each other and married to live a happy life with Niu Lang planting in the field while Zhi Nu did weaving at home. They were also magically given a boy and a girl. However, good times didn't last long because Zhi Nu's deeds were known by the king of the heaven who took her back to heaven. With the cow's help, Niu Lang flew to heaven along with his two children as they chased their wife and mother. It was just at that moment before he could reach Zhi Nu that the queen of the heaven created a huge river between them. Tears from the two flowed continuously so that even the queen was moved. As a result, she allowed them to meet only on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month every year.

Therefore, the day that Niu Lang and Zhi Nu meet is the present Double Seventh Festival.

Traditions
Young girls partake in worshiping the celestials during rituals. They go to the local temple to pray to Zhinü for wisdom. Paper items are usually burned as offerings. Girls may also recite traditional prayers for dexterity in needlework, which symbolize the traditional talents of a good spouse. Divination could take place to determine possible dexterity in needlework. They make wishes for marrying someone who would be a good and loving husband. During the festival, girls make a display of their domestic skills. Traditionally, there would be contests amongst young girls who attempted to be the best in threading needles under low-light conditions like the glow of ember or a half moon. Today, girls sometimes gather toiletries in honor of the seven maidens.

The festival also held an importance for newly-wed couples Traditionally, they would worship the celestial couple for the last time and bid farewell to them. The celebration stood symbol for a happy marriage and showed that the married woman was treasured by her new family.

During this festival, a festoon is placed in the yard. Single and newly-wed women make offerings to Niulang and Zhinü, which may include fruit, flowers, tea, and face powder. After finishing the offerings, half of the face powder is thrown on the roof and the other half divided among the young women. It is believed that by doing this, the women are bound in beauty with Zhinü. Tales say that it will rain on this fateful day if there's crying in heaven. Other tales say that you can hear the lovers talking if you stand under grapevines on this night.

On this day, the Chinese gaze to the sky to look for Vega and Altair shining in the Milky Way, while a third star forms a symbolic bridge between the two stars. It was said that if it rains on this day that it was caused by a river sweeping away the magpie bridge, or that the rain is the tears of the separated couple. Based on the legend of a flock of magpies forming a bridge to reunite the couple, a pair of magpies came to symbolize conjugal happiness and faithfulness.
Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qixi_Festival
http://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/holidays/qixi.htm

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