The Double Seventh Festival “Qi Qiao Jie” 七夕节 is one of Chinese traditional festivals, also known as a “Chinese Valentine’s Day.” It falls on the seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese lunar calendar.
In 2020 that’s Tuesday, August 25. It is not a public holiday.
Other common names for the festival are the “Seven Sisters Festival” or the “Festival of the Double Sevens.” There are two legends surrounding the origins of Chinese Valentine’s Day. It’s based on a romantic story about a weaver girl and an ox herder.
According to the first legend, the seven daughters of the Goddess of Heaven caught the eye of a Cowherd during one of their visits to earth. The daughters were bathing in a river and the Cowherd, Niu Lang, decided to have a bit of fun by running off with their clothing. It fell upon the prettiest daughter (who happened to be the seventh born), to ask him to return their clothes.
Of course, since Niu Lang had seen the daughter, Zhi Nu, naked, they had to be married. The couple lived happily for several years. Eventually, however, the Goddess of Heaven became fed up with her daughter’s absence, and ordered her to return to heaven. However, the mother took pity on the couple and allowed them to be reunited once a year. Legend has it that on the seventh night of the seventh moon, magpies form a bridge with their wings for Zhi Nu to cross to meet her husband.
In the second legend, Niu Lang and Zhi Nu were fairies living on opposite sides of the Milky Way. Feeling sorry for the two lonely sprites, the Jade Emperor of Heaven actively tried to bring them together. Unfortunately, he succeeded too well. Niu Lang and Zhi Nu became so enraptured with each other that they neglected their work. Annoyed, the Jade Emperor decreed that from that point on, the couple could only meet once a year, on the seventh night of the seventh moon.
Today, stargazers celebrate “Qi Qiao Jie” by gazing up at the star Vega, east of the Milky Way which represents Zhi Nu, and at the constellation Aquila, on the west side of the Milky Way, where Niu Lang waits for his lover to join him.
Chocolate isn’t the only aphrodisiac. Luscious mango, shrimp, and even ginger are all “foods of love” rumored to help rouse passions. There are several charming customs and gift givings associated with this romantic day for lovers.
Chinese people have adopted the traditions of Westerners on celebrating Valentine’s Day, such as exchanging gifts (like flowers, chocolates, ties and watches), making a special date to have a romantic dinner or watch a movie in the evening, or even to make a marriage registration if Valentine’s Day falls on a work day.