The Qi Xi Jie festival (七夕节), or Qi Qiao Jie (乞巧节), falls on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, and is also known as the double seven festival.
With romance in the air, most of the younger generation know this day as the Chinese Valentine’s Day.
It marks a day for lovers to celebrate their union and for married couple to show appreciation for having found each other.
While we probably won’t find special editions of Ferrero Rocher to cash in on this day, Chinese malls, especially online retail sites are known to give the day as much publicity as it’s western equivalent.
Origins of Qi Xi
The legend was about the cowherd and the weaver maiden.
The cowherd is a reference to niu lang (牛郎), while weaver maiden references zhi nu (织女). They also symbolize Vega and Altair which are the brightest stars in their constellations.
The story tells of how the male protagonist took her dress while she was bathing in the silver river (represented by the Milky Way). This was how they met. Weaver girl later agreed to marry cowherd and they fell madly in love with each other. They even had children.
Upon learning about this news, the Jade Emperor and Queen Mother were livid and brought her back to heaven to stop the two lovers from getting together again.
As cowherd could not cross the milky way to get to weaver maiden, the two love birds could only watch each other from afar for years.
Touched by their genuine love for each other, the Queen Mother somewhat relented and allowed them to see each other for a day each year on the 7th day of the 7th month.
To make his way across the milky way to see his wife, magpies would line up in the sky to form a bridge for cowherd to cross and see his love.
Customs practiced on double seven festival
There are no customary rituals that are practiced nationwide. This is unlike the dragon boats of duan wu jie, or the lanterns of the lantern festival.
However traditional rituals vary from place to place.
In Shan Dong for example, people would display fruits on a table hoping that spider would build webs on them. it is said that should this happen, the wishes of the household would come true.
In some places, young women would go out in the night hoping to hear the whispers of cowherd and weaver maiden so that they can find true love themselves.
Then there’s the fun ritual of making 7 dumplings and putting a needle, a date and coin in 3 random dumplings. 7 girls would choose one dumpling each. The one with the needle would become an expert in needle art, the one who selected the date would be married soon, and the one who chose the coin would have happiness in life.
In some areas, a rooster is symbolically sacrificed to mean that there is no cockerel to sound the morning, leaving the two lovers to stay together for an extended time.