The Qixi Festival, also known as Chinese Valentine's Day, is a traditional Chinese holiday that falls on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, which usually corresponds to August in the Gregorian calendar. This year, the festival will be celebrated on August 22.
The festival's origins are rooted in the ancient story of two star-crossed lovers: Zhinu, a weaver girl blessed with celestial lineage, and Niulang, a humble cowherd, who were separated by the Milky Way and could only meet once a year on the night of Qixi.
The couple, who were eventually immortalized as stars, had their annual meeting, set on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, where Magpies (one type of bird) bridged the expanse between the two realms, forming a temporary path for the separated lovers to reunite.
As a testament to their devotion, the Qixi Festival was born, a celebration that encapsulates the eternal bond between lovers and the eternal hope that love will always find a way, even against the odds set by the heavens themselves.
In modern times, the Qixi Festival is celebrated as a day for lovers and couples to express their affection and devotion to each other. Similar to Valentine's Day in Western culture, it has become a commercialized occasion with the exchange of gifts, flowers, chocolates, and romantic gestures. Many young couples take the opportunity to spend quality time together and enjoy each other's company.
In recent years, the Qixi Festival has gained more prominence due to the influence of Western Valentine's Day and the increasing globalisation of cultural celebrations. However, it still retains its traditional significance as a time to celebrate love and relationships in Chinese culture.
5 Ways to celebrate the festival
In modern times, the Qixi Festival is celebrated with a mix of traditional customs and contemporary practices.
Gifts and Flowers
Similar to Western Valentine's Day, exchanging gifts is a common practice during the Qixi Festival. People give chocolates, flowers (especially red roses), and other tokens of affection to their partners. Gift shops and online retailers often offer special Qixi-themed products.
Couples often enjoy a romantic dinner together on the evening of Qixi. Restaurants and cafes may offer special menus or promotions for couples celebrating the festival.
Wishing for Love
Traditional customs often involve young women praying for a good match or a happy marriage. Many visit temples to make offerings and pray for love and happiness. Some may also take the opportunity to visit matchmaking events or blind date gatherings.
Writing and exchanging love poems is a traditional activity during the Qixi Festival. Couples may express their feelings and emotions through written words, either in the form of poems or heartfelt messages.
Given the legendary involvement of magpies in the love story, decorations featuring magpies are common during the festival. This can include various forms of art, accessories, and home decorations.