Festivals are an integral part of Chinese culture and each celebration is rich in history and tradition. Along with that, all Chinese festivals take place according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar and are often greatly revered. One of the most popular Festivals is the Qixi Festival, which we will extensively discuss in this write-up.
What is Qixi Festival?
Also known as the Qiqiao Festival, this is without a doubt one of the most celebrated and most fascinating Chinese festivals with a history of more than 2,600 years and you get to learn about the Chinese Valentine’s traditions on this day. In addition to that, the Qixi Festival is also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day, the Double Seventh Festival, the Magpie Festival, and the Night of the Sevens. The Qixi Festival has its roots in Chinese mythology and it is celebrated according to the Lunar calendar, that is, on the 7th day of the 7th Lunar month.
Generally, the Qixi festival celebrates the yearly meeting of the Niulang (the cowherd) and Zhinu (the weaver girl) in Chinese mythology, and the festival was extrapolated from the worship of natural astrology. According to the Chinese, the festival is the birthday of the 7th elder sister in the traditional significance, and it is identified as the ‘Qixi’ festival because of the worship of the 7th elder sister, which is often held on the 7th night of the 7th Lunar month. This particular festival has greatly inspired the Thất Tịch festival in Vietnam, the Tanabata festival in Japan, and the Chilseok festival in Korea.
When is the Qixi Festival?
As mentioned earlier, the Qixi Festival aka the Chinese Valentine’s Day falls on the seventh Day of the seventh Chinese Lunisolar calendar. To be more specific, it was on August 14th in 2021, and it will fall on the 4th of August in 2022, the 22nd of August in 2023, the 10th of August in 2024, and the 29th of August in 2025. There is no public holiday on this day but it is observed in a similar fashion to Valentine’s Day in the west. During this festival, marriage proposals, romantic gestures, and multiple confessions of love are seen in full force. On this day, couples simply take the time to celebrate their love.
Qixi Festival History
The Qixi Festival is one of the ancient traditional Chinese Festivals that have been celebrated since the Han Dynasty, which existed between 206 BC and 220 AD. In ancient pre-historic times, say about 1.7 million years ago, the Chinese worshipped the stars. Niulang, the Chinese deity who identified as the star Altair, and Zhinu, the star Vega in Chinese mythology, were on different sides of the Milky Way when they happened to catch eye. They would meet once a year, and their reunification day was worshipped as the special day, which is the Seventh Day Festival.
In the Han Dynasty, Zhinu was considered a skilled weaver girl who often weaved clouds. She was also seen as the patroness of young females and small children. Because of her venerated status in ancient China, young girls would come out and pray on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, which was considered Zhinu’s birthday. Also, it is on this day that she fell in love with the cowherd, hence the celebration of love.
During the Song Dynasty, between 960 and 1279 AD, the custom of praying for creativity and innovation on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month became a popular tradition. There were multiple specialized markets where stuff for the praying ceremony was sold in the capital. The celebrations were then held in unison.
In 2015, the Double Seventh Festival/the Qixi Festival was added to the list of the National Intangible Cultural Heritage by the country’s State Council. Unfortunately, most of the traditional customs are disappearing as the years go by, but people still find ways of celebrating love.
Qixi Festival Story
According to Chinese mythology, the Qixi Festival is a commemoration of the love story between Zhinu, the weaver girl who symbolized Vega, and Niulang, the cowherd who symbolized Altair. Niulang, the cowherd, was an orphan who lived with his sister-in-law and his younger brother. Unfortunately, his sister-in-law abused him often and eventually kicked him out of his house. She gave him an old cow and Niulang had nothing else to do but to be grateful for his new companion- the cow.
One day, the old cow spoke out and told Niulang that a fairy will come to him and that the fairy would be a skilled heavenly weaver. The old cow also told him that the fairy will stay on earth with him if she fails to go back to heaven (her home) before the next morning. This eventually came to pass, and when Niulang saw Zhinu, the beautiful fairy, he fell in love with her immediately. The love between them was reciprocal and they got married.
When the emperor of heaven (the Jade Emperor) found out about their marriage, he was very furious about it because it was a blasphemous act. He immediately sent minions to search for Zhinu and bring her back to heaven. When she was taken away, Niulang was greatly heartbroken and started chasing after the minions. When he got closer to them and was about to rescue the love of his life, the Queen Mother of the West drew the Milky Way (a Silver River) in the sky and completely blocked Niulang from accessing the minions.
Even so, the love between the skillful weaver and the cowherd moved the magpie, and the two built a bridge of magpies over the Silver River so that they can meet whenever possible. The Emperor of Heaven and the Queen Mother of the West were completely moved by the sight of the brige and they allowed the couple to meet once every year on the 7th day of the seventh Lunar month at the Magpie Bridge, and that was the origin of the popular Qixi Festival.
How is Qixi Festival Celebrated?
The Qixi Festival, also known as the Double Seven Festival, is considered the most romantic and lovely celebration out of all traditional Chinese Festivals. Since the globalization of China, it is known as Chinese Valentine’s Day and on this day, the aura is filled with all kinds of romantic gestures, flowers, and celebrations of love. Previously, there were traditions such as worshiping the moon and appreciating the stars, worshipping the weaver girl and the Qiniangma goddess, worshipping the Kiuxing star, and sowing seeds to wish for a baby, among others.
Nowadays, the traditions seem to be fading away as most people choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving presents such as flowers, jewelry, chocolate, wine, and other gifts in place of the traditional customs. Even so, the romantic legend of the cowherd (Niulang) and Zhinu (the weaver girl) is valued by most couples and young people.
Qixi Festival Traditions
Some of the most popular traditions that you will come across during the Qixi Festival are;
Worship the Moon and Appreciate Stars
On the evening of the 7th day of the 7th Lunar month, young girls and females would take a sacred bath with water and sap, wear new and aesthetic clothes, and worship the moon. They believed that the moon was the auspicious sign for women and when they were done worshipping the moon, they would appreciate Altair and Vega getting together, as a symbol of the reunion between Niulang and Zhinu.
Handy Girl Competition
Some of the handy girl traditions were the needle threading competition where women would thread colorful thread into 7-holed needs and the fastest one was the most skillful weaver, the spiderweb predictions where every girl had to place a small spider in a box as they wait to see the most round and dense web, and the sewing needle predictions to determine the handiest girl among the competitors.
Worship the Weaver Girl
The ceremony is often done under the moonlight, where the girls set a table in somebody’s home with various sacrifices such as nuts, wine, melon seeds, etc. They would put flowers in a bottle covered with paper as they burn incense and perform a sacred bath before worship. After worship, they would dine and make merry.
Worship Qiniangma Goddess
Because it was her birthday, the Chinese would gather in groups to worship the Qiniangma goddess with fruits, flowers, and gifts. When children reach the age of 15, parents would also go to the Qiniang temple and thank the goddess for the safety and health of their children.
Worship Kuixing Star
The birthday of the Kuixing Star was on this day. So, scholars who wanted good grades in their examinations had to worship the star on this day.
Sowing Seeds to Wish for a Baby
Here, anyone who wishes to give birth needed to sow seeds on a small wooden board with a layer of soil a few days before the festival. When the seedlings sprout, they look like a small village and signify good luck.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who was sympathetic towards Niulang and Zhinu, so she would make some delicious pastries (Qiaoguo) and pray that the two would reunite. The Jade Emperor was impressed and asked a matchmaker to find her a soulmate. So, most young girls would make and east Qiao Guo during the Qixi festival with the hope of a lifetime partner.
To do this, girls put on new clothes, put mung beans in a basin filled with water to hasten the sprouting process and make colorful items. They burn candles and bow to the stars as well to welcome the fairies.
Swim in the River Where the Seven Fairies Bathed
The Chinese believe that on this day 7 fairies come to earth and bathe in the rivers. Supposedly, the rivers are magical, prevent diseases, and bring good luck as it is holy and clean during the Qixi festival.
Store Qixi Water
In Guangdong province, each family fetches water from the river or a well in the morning. Supposedly, the water is magical and is used to treat burns and remove sores.
Celebrate the Cows
Children pick wildflowers and hang them on the horns of cows as a way of commemorating the sacrifice of the old cow when he gave his skin to Niulang to cross the Milky Way and visit his bride.
Worship the Bed God
This is mostly done in Taiwan, and people worship the Bed God so that he can protect their children as they grow up.
Using special flowers known as impatiens balsamina that have a red color, the Chinese in the southwestern part of China, dye their nails as a beautification element for the festival.
They wash their hair in water whose leaves have been soaked. By being clean, they can potentially find their soulmate.
Airing Out Clothes and Books
By doing this, they show off their wealth and knowledge, and they show as much gratitude and respect to the sun during the festival.
Make a Qiaogu Scarecrow
This is a paper cutting competition that determines the most skillful woman in Shaanxi.
Consecrate Mohele, the Qixi Mascot
The doll is dedicated to the moon. It is mostly a historical figure from the Song Dynasty.
Tie the Hair with Red Rope
This keeps children healthy and prolongs their life.
Qixi Festival Foods
Some of the popular Qixi festival foods are Qiaoguo, sugar shaped like women, nuts (hazelnuts, melon seeds, peanuts, red dates, and longans), dumplings, chicken, sprouts, and cloud noodles, fried bean tea, glutinous rice sticks, and patterned melons.
The seventh day of the seventh lunar month marks the traditional Chinese festival of Qixi, also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day. The festival has been celebrated for over two thousand years as a time to honor romantic love.
During the Qixi Festival in China, many delicacies are served. These are some of the most well-liked foods:
Qiaoguo is a sweet pastry that is commonly shaped like a pomegranate, a fruit that is seen as a sign of prosperity and fertility in China.
Bingtanghulu is a type of candy made by drizzling a thick sugar syrup over skewered hawthorn berries. During the Qixi Festival, it becomes a popular street food.
Zhongzi are steamed rice dumplings typically stuffed with pork, beans, mushrooms, and other ingredients and wrapped in bamboo leaves. The Qixi Festival is just one of many Chinese celebrations where zhongzi is served.
Xianrenzhang is a type of pastry prepared by frying thin strips of a dough made from glutinous rice flour, sugar, and sesame seeds.
Some of the many traditional Chinese foods eaten during the Qixi Festival are listed here.
why is qixi festival important?
Qixi Festival, also called the Double Seventh Festival or Chinese Valentine’s Day, is a major traditional festival celebrated throughout China. The seventh day of the seventh lunar month (August) is the day on which the festival is observed.
The festival has been celebrated for over two thousand years, and its origins can be traced back to a Chinese folktale about a cowherd and a weaver girl who fell in love but were separated by the Milky Way and could only see each other once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. This tale has come to represent undying love, and it is for this reason that the festival is sometimes referred to as the Chinese Valentine’s Day.
There are many reasons to celebrate the Qixi Festival. Like Valentine’s Day in the West, it’s a time for loved ones to publicly declare their feelings for one another. Many couples enjoy romantic dates and gift giving.
Secondly, the festival is significant historically and culturally. Traditional Chinese values such as family, love, and devotion are honored during this time. The folktale’s weaver girl is often interpreted as a symbol of feminine grace and intelligence, so the festival also serves as a reminder of women’s significance in Chinese history and culture.
In conclusion, the Qixi Festival is a time for people to get together with their loved ones and celebrate the year with traditional foods, musical performances, and other fun events. It’s a chance to honor one’s roots and strengthen ties to one’s neighborhood.
qixi festival and yue lao
Yue Lao, also known as the “old man under the moon,” is a deity in Chinese mythology who is said to be in charge of matchmaking and marriages. According to legend, he binds together the feet of destined couples with a red string, ensuring that they will meet and fall in love.
On the other hand, Qixi Festival is a traditional Chinese festival that celebrates the love story of a cowherd and a weaver girl, who were separated by the Milky Way and could only meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
The connection between Qixi Festival and Yue Lao is that many people believe that if they pray to Yue Lao during Qixi Festival, he will help them find their true love and bring them together with their destined partner. Some people even visit the Temple of Yue Lao on Qixi Festival to pray for love and marriage.
In summary, while Qixi Festival is a celebration of the love story of the cowherd and the weaver girl, Yue Lao is a deity who is believed to help people find their true love and bring them together with their destined partner. Many people associate Qixi Festival with Yue Lao and pray to him for love and marriage during this festival.
Qixi Festival vs. Valentine’s Day
Unlike the Westernized Valentine’s Day which is celebrated on the 14th of February, the Chinese Qixi Festival is celebrated on the seventh day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. Aside from that, the Qixi festival is based on a Chinese myth of bitter-sweet love, whereas the west-based Valentine’s Day is a feast day honoring two Christian martyrs but has been popularized as a day of celebrating love.
Qixi Festival and Valentine’s Day are both festivals that celebrate love and romance, but there are some differences between them.
Cultural origins: Qixi Festival has a long history and is based on a Chinese folk tale, while Valentine’s Day has its origins in Western culture and is named after Saint Valentine, a Christian martyr.
Date: Qixi Festival is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, which usually falls in August, while Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14th every year.
Traditions: In China, Qixi Festival is celebrated with traditional activities such as writing love letters, making offerings to the weaver girl, and eating special foods like bingtanghulu and qiaoguo. In contrast, Valentine’s Day is often celebrated with gift-giving, romantic dinners, and sending cards or flowers.
Focus: Qixi Festival is focused on the idea of true love and the celebration of a long-standing Chinese folk tale, whereas Valentine’s Day is more focused on commercialized expressions of love.
Significance: While Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide and has become a global phenomenon, Qixi Festival is mostly celebrated in China and other Asian countries.
In summary, Qixi Festival and Valentine’s Day share some similarities, but they have different cultural origins, dates, traditions, and focuses.