Google rolled out a celestial-themed doodle to mark China’s romantic Qixi Festival, which occurs when the stars Altair and Vega appear closest together in the sky.
Falling on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, the Qixi Festival, or Double Seventh Festival, is widely known as China Valentine’s Day. It is a day full of romance because of an ancient household love story in China about Niulang and Zhinu (Cowherd and Weaver Girl).
China Valentine’s Day
Although the western Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 prevails in China for years, Chinese people attach more and more importance to Qixi, their own Valentine’s Day. Lovers and couples exchange gifts on that Chinese lovers day, and some youngsters like to join traditional activities in ancient Chinese costumes.
Young Girls’ Festival (Qiqiao Festival)
For girls, Qixi has another meaning, for it is time of a year to plead with Goddess Zhinu for ingenuity. That’s the origin of its another name, Qiqiao Festival, literally Ingenuity-Begging Festival. Girls in ancient time join various competitions on needlework, while only part of the interesting games retains today, played among girls, the same in the hope of getting all smart and beautiful things.
Origin of Qixi Festival – Love Story of Niulang and Zhinu
In ancient Prehistoric Times (1.7 million years ago – the 21st century BC), Chinese already worshipped stars. Niulang, referring to Altair and Zhinu, the Vega, on two sides of the Milky Way catched their eyes. As the two meet each other once a year, their reunion day was worshipped as a special day.
In the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), Zhinu the Vega was deified as a skillful weaver girl waving clouds, and at the same time patroness of females and kids. Hence, young girls prayed on 7th day of the 7th lunar month, considered as the birthday of Zhinu for skillful hands. By Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD), the custom of praying for ingenuity on 7th day of the 7th lunar month had been very popular and there were even specialized markets selling the stuff for the praying ceremony in the capital.
The most popular origin and love story of Chinese Qixi Festival is about Zhinu, the Weaver Girl and Niulang, the Cowherd. Their love was banned by Zhinu’s parents and Niulang was exiled to the earth. One day, when Zhinu came down to the earth for a bathing, the two met each other. Zhinu then decided to stay on the earth without permission, got married with Niulang and gave birth to two lovely kids. But happy time did not last long. Zhinu’s mother, Xiwangmu, or known as Heavenly Queen Mother got to know it and sent heavenly soldiers to take Zhinu back by force. Seeing it, Niulang carried their two kids and chased in a hurry. When Niulang was getting more and more closer, the Heavenly Queen Mother hurled her hairpin to create a river, the Milky Way, between them. Sorrowfully, Niulang and Zhinu cried from the bottom of their hearts. This moved magpies and they flew over to form a bridge over the river for the two to meet in the center. The Heavenly Queen Mother was also moved and allowed Niulang and their kids to stay in the heaven. But the family can only reunite once a year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month with the help of magpies.
How to Celebrate Qixi Festival – Present-day Activities & Ancient Traditions
Presently, Chinese lovers and couples usually have a date on this Chinese lovers’ day and present gifts to each other. In recent years, more and more lovers choose to get married at a registry, or hold an ancient Chinese style wedding ceremony on that romantic day. The activities to pray for ingenuity are only inherited and popular in a small scale and young girls like to wear traditional Chinese costumes to attend them.