Love is always worth celebrating, and it is not just a western concept! The East also has its own equivalent of Valentine’s Day, known commonly as the Qixi Festival, but also goes by the names Double Seventh Festival and Chinese Valentine’s Day.
A traditional festival that dates back thousands of years, it is celebrated annually on the 7 day of the 7 lunar month. This year, it happens to fall on Wednesday 7 August. So what is this Qixi Festival all about? Well, like most other festivals, there lies a tragic tale. In this case, a tragic tale of forbidden love with a slightly mythical twist!
The Tale of Forbidden Love
Once upon a time in China, there lived a cowherd named NiuLang who owned an old ox that later revealed himself to be the Taurus Star. To repay NiuLang for taking good care of him through the years, the Taurus Star matchmade NiuLang with a beautiful fairy named ZhiNu.
It was love at first sight for them. They got married not long after and were blessed with twins, a boy and a girl. It was here that NiuLang found out that ZhiNu was not just a fairy, but the granddaughter of the Jade Emperor and is renowned for her weaving and sewing skills.
Years passed and life was perfect for the lovers, at least for a while.
Why? Because upon hearing that his granddaughter married a mere mortal and bore him a pair of twins, the Jade Emperor was furious! In a fit of anger, he summoned his wife, the Jade Empress, to bring ZhiNu back to heaven immediately.
One day, NiuLang came home to find his children crying. When asked why, they replied that an old lady came and took ZhiNu away. Immediately, he put the pieces together and knew that it was not a regular old lady, but rather a deity who had taken ZhiNu back to heaven.
With the magical hide (essentially a magic carpet that would fly him to heaven) left behind by the Taurus Star and twins in tow, NiuLang flew to the heavens in search of her. The Jade Empress saw him the moment he arrived, and in a rage of anger slashed the sky and formed a raging river (TianHe) to prevent the family from reuniting.
Seeing this, NiuLang and his children broke down in tears knowing that they would never get to see ZhiNu again. Moved by this, the Jade Emperor turned them all into stars and permitted them to meet once a year for a day, on a magical bridge formed by magpies.
To put things into perspective, ZhiNu is believed to be the star Vega, while NiuLang is the star Altair. As Altair is in the middle of the three-star formation, Shaft of Aquila, the two stars on the sides are believed to be the twins. And the raging river (TianHe) that separated the loving family? Well, that would be the Milky Way!
Just like how mooncakes are eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, QiaoGuo is eaten during the Qixi Festival. QiaoGuo is a sweet fried pastry made of flour and sugar, think of it as a smaller and crispier version of a Chinese dough fritter (YouTiao).
As ZhiNu is a master weaver and seamstress, ladies would pray to her for wisdom and dexterity. There would also be sewing contests held in her honor, while some sew gifts for their partners on this day. The other traditions observed are similar to Valentine’s Day, this includes exchanging gifts like flowers and chocolates with loved ones, friends and family.
Looking to celebrate this day of familial, romantic and platonic love? Head on over here for some floral gift ideas to surprise and bring smiles to your loved ones. Alternatively, click here to expand your flower and plant knowledge!