Qixi Festival is one of Chinese traditional festivals, and also known as a Chinese Valentine's Day.
While Valentine’s Day is on February 14 in other parts of the world, China celebrates its version during the Qixi Festival, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. So Qixi Festival is also called Double Seventh Day.
The legend of Qixi
The Festival has been celebrated in China since the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD). Based on the romantic legend of “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl”, the day is celebrated at the time of years when the stars Vega and Altair become bridged together across the Milky Way by a third star.
Long, long time ago there was a young cowherd. His name was Niulang (cowherd). He was poor but kind-hearted and all he had was the clothes he wore and an old ox. The ox was a rather special one. He was the star Taurus who violated laws of the Heavenly Palace in the past. One day Niulang noticed seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake. The ox accompanying Niulang suggested him to steal their clothes. Niulang did so and stayed to see what is going to happen. When realizing that someone has stolen their clothes. The fairy sisters chose Zhinü (weaver girl), which was the youngest and most beautiful, to get back their clothes. Zhinü did return the clothes but because Niulang saw her naked she became his wife. Niulang and Zhinü lived a happy life together; Niulang worked in the field while Zhinü did weaving at home. After a few years passed, they had two children, one boy, and one girl.
However, the Goddess of Heaven (Zhinü's mother) found out that Zhinü, a fairy girl, had married a mere mortal. The goddess was furious and sent celestial soldiers to bring Zhinü back. Niulang was very upset when he found his wife was taken back to heaven. Then his ox asked Niulang to kill it and put on its hide, so he would be able to go up to heaven to find his wife. Crying bitterly, he killed the ox, put on the skin, and carried his two beloved children off to heaven to find Zhinü.
But the Goddess of Heaven finds out about his arrival. The Goddess decided to separate them forever. She took out her hairpin and scratched a wide river in the sky. This “river” is what is now known as the Milky Way. Niulang is seen as the star Altair and his wife Zhinü is the star, Vega. Zhinü is forced to forever weave on one side of the river and only from a distance see her husband Niulang and their two children.
Heartbroken, he and his children could only weep bitterly. However, their love moved all the magpies to take pity on them, and they flew up into heaven to form a bridge over the river, so Niulang and Zhinü could meet on the magpie bridge. The goddess was also moved by their love, so she allowed them a meeting on the magpie bridge on that day every year (the seventh day of the seventh lunar month).
In ancient China, to celebrate Qixi, girls took part in worshiping Zhinü by preparing a table of offerings: tea, wine, fruits, red dates, hazelnuts, peanuts, and melon seeds. In the evening, young women sat around the table, displaying their needlework, gazing at Vega and praying for a good husband and a happy life. Then they’d play games or read poems until midnight.
Today, Qixi has evolved to become the festival of romance. It is often called Chinese Valentine’s Day. People usually celebrate Chinese Valentine's Day by giving flowers, chocolates, and other presents to their sweethearts, instead of doing the traditional customs.
Qixi Festival dates (2019-2022)The date is base on the Chinese lunar calendar, so it's about 21 to 51 days after the Gregorian date.