Seventh Eve - Chinese Valentine's Day
Date of Seventh Eve 2015: August 20
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Origin of Seventh Eve
The 7th evening of the 7th month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which falls on the 20th of August in 2015, is a traditional Chinese festival called Qixi or "Seventh Eve". The reason why the Seventh Eve is referred to as Valentine's Day for the Chinese is from a touching fairy tale of Niu Lang the cowherd and Zhi Nu the weaver.
In the fairy tale the cowherd was a young farmer who had once rescued a holy cow, and the weaver girl was one of the granddaughters of the Queen Mother of Heaven. One day, all the weaver girls in heaven descended down to earth and while they bathed in a river, the holy cow persuaded the Cowherd to take away the clothes of the seventh weaver girl. When she was looking for her clothes, the weaver girl came across and fell in love with the cowherd and thus they became husband and wife. They led a happy life, with the cowherd working in the fields while the weaver girl weaved at home. When the Queen Mother of Heaven was informed about this, she was enraged and forced the weaver girl to return to heaven. The cowherd tried to run after them and just as he was about to catch up with them, the Queen Mother of Heaven removed her silver hairpin and engraved a line in the sky with it. Immediately, a huge river appeared between the cowherd and the weaver girl. This river, which was created by the Queen Mother of Heaven, is called the "Silver River", known in the West as the Milky Way. As a result the cowherd and the weaver girl were separated.
However, magpies sympathised and took pity on the two lovers and so they formed a bridge over the Silver River on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, so that the couple were able to meet.
On the basis of this fairy tale, the two very bright stars opposite each other across the Milky Way are named the Cowherd (the Altair) and the Weaver Girl (the Vega). The two less bright stars flanking the Vega are thought of as the children of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl.
Qixi Festival activities
Sitting in the courtyard on Seventh Eve and gazing at the Cowherd and Weaver Girl stars has become a unique custom in Chinese culture. On a clear late summer night, the two stars can be seen facing each other across the broad Milky Way. On this night, girls will traditionally face the bright moon and pray to heaven for a lover that can satisfy her heart.
Another Chinese custom on Seventh Eve is to put lotus lanterns on water. As darkness falls, surfaces of rivers, lakes, and ponds are dotted with the lanterns that the young men and women have released. The lanterns move slowly on the water, carrying with them the longings of young men and women for a perfect marriage. The sparkling stars in the sky, the lotus lanterns in the water and the lovers in the moonlight creates a beautiful and romantic atmosphere.
The weaver girl was a beautiful, clever and skilful fairy. Women on earth who long to be as skilful as the weaver girl compete in the moonlight on Seventh Eve; whoever gets the silk thread through the eye of the needle first will be acknowledged as the most skilful. Prior to the event, some will look up at the girl's star and pray for wisdom and dexterity. For this reason, Qixi Festival is sometimes known as "Dexterity Festival" or "Girls Festival".
Today, Seventh Eve remains a romantic festival. Customs on this day vary across China and some of the more traditional activities have gone out of fashion. Yet, the love story of the cowherd and weaver girl is still being passed on from generation to generation and will continue to do so for many years to come.