We want to continue sharing interesting facts about Chinese holidays and customs with you guys. The next one is very romantic, filled with love and passion. Let’s dive into this holiday fully by reading this story…
This article is dedicated to a romantic Qi Xi festival (七夕节; qī xī jié), which is also called the Double Seventh Festival, Night of Seventh, Magpie Festival, and Chinese Valentine’s Day. It is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. This year it will be on August 22nd.
Once upon a time, there lived a poor orphaned cowherd Niulang and a girl named Zhinu, a weaver and 7th daughter of Goddess and Emperor of Heaven. After the parents of Niulang passed away, he was living with his older brother and sister-in-law. They were very cruel to Niulang and eventually kicked him out. All that he had were some clothes and an old ox.
The ox was a former God of Cattle, but he was expelled from there because he broke the Law of Heaven, so he had to live in the semblance of an ox. Niulang treated him very well and loved him. Ox highly appreciated the boy’s kindness, and as gratitude, he wanted to acquaint the boy with the beautiful girl, Zhinu.
She was the seventh daughter of the Goddess, who got bored with Heaven’s life and came down to the Earth to see how mortal people live. When they first met, they fell in love and married. It was love at first sight. Shortly after their wedding, they become parents of two children, a boy and a girl. Niulang was working in the field, Zhinu was weaving every day, and they were happy.
However, their happiness didn’t last long. When the Goddess of Heaven (Zhinu’s mother) discovered that her daughter had married a mortal, she got furious. She ordered celestial soldiers to bring her daughter back, whatever it takes. Niulang felt despair when he found out that his wife had been taken back to Heaven. However, the old ox advised Niulang to kill him and put his skin on so that he could get to Heaven. Sadly, Niulang has no choice, so he kills an old ox, puts his skin on, and carries his two beloved children off to Heaven to find Zhinu.
When he reached Heaven and finally saw Zhinu, the Goddess separated them forever by a vast river that later became to be known as the Milky Way. Broken Niulang could only weep sadly, but their true love moved all magpies in the world, and they flew up into Heaven to form a bridge over the river so they could meet again over there. The cold heart of the cruel Goddess has melted, so she allowed them to meet each other on that bridge every year on the same day (the seventh day of the seventh lunar month).
This festival has a lot of traditions and customs of the celebration. One of the most important activities of the Qi Xi festival is worshipping Zhinu.
It is usually organized by young sisters (and females cousins), both married and single. They prepare a table with tea, wine, fruits, hazelnuts, peanuts, and melon seeds. On the Double Seventh Day Eve, young women sit around the table and try their best to show needlework skills and compete for the best mastery with others.
Moreover, they pray for a good husband and happy life, play games and read poems until midnight. On this day, it is very important for young women to show their skills in different spheres. Another fascinating tradition is making and eating “Skill fruit”. Chinese usually prepare skillfully made snacks: fried, thin pastries of different shapes made from oil, flour, sugar, and honey.
The recipe is so simple, so if you have a great mood and are curious about this meal, you can try to cook it yourself. It is cooked as follows: First, put some sugar into a pot and boil it into a syrup, then add flour and sesame seeds and mix into a dough. Put the dough on a table, and roll the pastry out until very thin. Cut the pastry into squares and fold them into fusiform shapes (wide in the middle, tapering at the ends). Lastly, fry the pastries until they turn golden yellow.
Nowadays, most of the traditions are disappearing or even no longer observed. With the influence of globalization, traditional customs have transformed, but even though Qi Xi is still celebrated in some provinces. These days people usually give each other flowers, chocolates, and other presents. However, the faithful and deep love of Niulang and Zhinu will always be in the hearts of Chinese people, and this legend probably will be told from one generation to another.