Qixi Festival(七夕节, also known as Double Seventh Festival), is a traditional Chinese festival that occurs on July 7th of the Lunar Calendar. In 2017, Qixi Festival falls on August 28.
Qixi Festival is related to a romantic story of Niulang (牛郎) and Zhinü (织女) (wikipedia), and in the recent years this relation turned the festival into a kind of "Chinese Valentine's Day". But what is the real origin of this festival, and how did people originally celebrate it?
The first recorded origin of Qixi can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (202 B.C. - 220 A.D.), but many people believe that the festival was celebrated even earlier and had its beginnings tied to the original creation of the Lunar Calendar (2698 B.C.) Numerology has a deep significance in Chinese culture, and many Chinese festivals are related to particular numbers. In the Lunar Calendar, January 1st is the Spring Festival, February 2nd is the Dragon Head Festival, March 3rd is the Shangsi Festival, April 4th is the Qingming Festival and so on. The notion of "double" is believed to bring good luck, and so the Qixi Festival is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month (July 7th) of the Lunar Calendar.
The Qixi Festival has many other names: Kuixing Festival (魁星节), Girls' Day (女儿节), Qijie's Birthday (七姐诞) and others which all came from the diverse historical traditions throughout China. One particular manifestation of this festival is related to craftsmanship and is known by another common name - Qiqiao Festival (乞巧节).
Qiqiao (乞巧), literally means "begging for skill." In China, people use Qiao (巧) to describe someone who is clever or posesses a craftsmanship skill. In ancient China, a woman with skillful hands, especially in needlework, was thought to be able to marry well and to have a good life. In Chinese mythology, Zhinü is the Goddess of the star Zhinü Xing (织女星, also known as the star Vega in the Lyra constellation), and her duty is to weave the sky. Unmarried women would celebrate and worship on Qixi, wishing to be as skillful as Zhinü.
Traditional celebrations and worships include many activities that vary from areas to area, but which also have some common ground:
穿针乞巧 (Thread a needle to beg for skill)
This is the very first tradition recorded from the Han Dynasty, and it is the most common tradition on Qixi. In the night of Qixi, young women gather together, and after the worship, a contest is held among them: whoever can thread seven lined-up needles (sometimes 5 or 9 needles) first would be called De Qiao (得巧, lit. "obtained skill").
喜蛛应巧 (Lucky spider shows skill)
Spiders are believed to bring good luck in Chinese culture. Young women would catch a small spider and keep in a box. Next morning if the spider made a web in the box, it would predict the woman to have skillful hands.
浮针试巧 (Shadow prediction)
Another needle activity is to place a basin of water in the sun until a film appears on the water. Needles are then thrown on the water and left to float. The shadows of the needles is thought to predict the future.
Qiqiao Tu, Qing Dynasty, Ren Yi
Food is always an important part in all of the festivals. Besides offering fresh fruit and vegetables to wish for a good harvest for the next year, a fried snack called 巧果 (Qiaoguo) is specially made for the festival.
Qixi festival is also celebrated in Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, which all have their own unique takes on this tradition. In China, the romantic story tied to this festival has encouraged people give it new meaning. Although this festival's traditional spirit is not given as much importance as it was in earlier times, it still widely celebrated. We wish you a happy Qixi Festival, whether you celebrate it in a traditional or romantic way!