The Qixi Festival, traditionally known as the Festival to Plead for Skills or the Double Seventh Festival, and nowadays generally referred to as Chinese Valentine’s Day, was the most romantic holiday in ancient China. It is still celebrated on the 7th day of 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar and this year it falls on August 13.
In ancient China, there spread a romantic love legend about the origin of the festival. The legend goes that Zhi Nu (a fairy) and Niu Lang (a mortal) fell in love with each other and then got married without the approval of the gods.
But the God of Heaven and the Queen Mother were not satisfied with their marriage and separated them. Zhi Nu was confined to Heaven, while Niu Lang was confined to Earth to do farm work. Taking their great love for each other into consideration, the gods allowed the couple to meet at the Magpie Bridge once a year and spend the day together – on the 7th day of 7th lunar month. But only once a year!
Although this ancient festival is slowly dying out and a lot young people now celebrate the Western Valentine’s Day instead, many people in China still celebrate this festival of love devotion.
The history of the Qixi Festival dates back to the period of Han Dynasty (202BC~AD220). During the festival, girls prepare fruits, melons, and incense as offerings to Zhi Nu, praying to master high skills in needlecraft and wishing to find ideal husbands.
In some parts of China in the past, seven close girlfriends would gather to make dumplings. They put three items into separate dumplings: a needle, a copper coin, and a red date, which represent perfect needlework skills, good fortune, and an early marriage.
But the celebrations were not confined to girls. It became a day for all people, young and old, men and women, to make offerings. Traditionally, if an offering was made for three straight years, it was believed the wish would come true.
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