The Double Seventh festival falls on the 7th day of the 7th Chinese lunar month. In 2017 the Double Seventh festival falls on August 28.
The Legend of Niulang and Zhinü
(Disclaimer: This story is not my own words)
As one of the Chinese four folk legends concerning love, the legend of Niulang and Zhinü features the Double Seventh Festival.
It is said that Niulang was a cowboy who had a kind heart even though he was without living parents. Living with his brother and brother-in-law, he was maltreated. One day, after having been driven out of his home, an old man (in fact a supernatural being), guided him to the sick cattle from heaven. With great care from Niulang, the cattle recovered. In order to show gratitude to Niulang, the cow helped him get acquainted with Zhinü (a fairy, the seventh daughter of a goddess and the Jade Emperor). Zhinü soon fell in love with Niulang and they got married without the knowledge of the goddess. Niulang and Zhinü lived a happy life together; Niulang worked in the field while Zhinü did weaving at home. After a few years passed, they had two children, one boy and one girl.
However, the Goddess of Heaven (Zhinü's mother) found out that Zhinü, a fairy girl, had married a mere mortal. The goddess was furious and sent celestial soldiers to bring Zhinü back. Niulang was very upset when he found his wife was taken back to heaven. Then his ox asked Niulang to kill it and put on its hide, so he would be able to go up to heaven to find his wife. Crying bitterly, he killed the ox, put on the skin, and carried his two beloved children off to heaven to find Zhinü.
Just before he caught up with Zhinü the goddess of heaven took out her hairpin and created a huge river between them, and they were separated forever by the river that later became known as the Milky Way.
Heartbroken, he and his children could only weep bitterly. However, their love moved all the magpies to take pity on them, and they flew up into heaven to form a bridge over the river, so Niulang and Zhinü could meet on the magpie bridge. The goddess was also moved by their love, so she allowed them a meeting on the magpie bridge on that day every year (the seventh day of the seventh lunar month).
Therefore, the day that Niulang and Zhinü meet is the present Double Seventh Festival.
The Double Seventh festival is the most romantic festival of all the Chinese festivals. In the past, the Double Seventh festival was a day especially for young girls to pray for skills in needle work and happy marriges, it is also known as the Young Girls' Day or Qiqiao (pray for intelligence and skills) Festival.
The Double Seventh Festival has been around since the Han Dynasty. Sadly, the majority of the traditional customs are disappearing. These customs are still done but are more likely to be found in rural areas.
1. Showing skills (demonstrating dexterity/skill) was the most popular custom for women in the evening of Qixi (The Double Seventh Festival). The longest standing way to "plead skills" was to speedily thread a needle under moonlight. Young women also carved exotic flowers, animals, and unusual birds, usually on a melon skin.
2. Worshiping the weaver fairy Zhinü , involved a table of offerings: tea, wine, fruits, longans, red dates, hazelnuts, peanuts, and melon seeds. In the evening young women sat around the table, displaying their needlework, gazing at Vega, and praying for a good husband and a happy life. Then they'd play games or read poems until midnight.
3. Honoring oxen: Children picked bunches of wild flowers and hung them on the horns of oxen in honor of the legendary ox that was
How it's Celebrated
The Double Seventh festival is known globally as "Chinese Valentines day". Nowadays, people buy flowers, chocolate and other gifts for their significant other, instead of practising the traditional customs.
Although in China, Western Valentines day has become more popular than the Double Seventh festival, the stories of Niulang and Zhinü are still passed on from generation to generation and will continue to do so for years to come.
One of the things eaten during the festival is Qiaoguo. Qiaoguo is fried thin pastries, sometimes in cute shapes.
The melons and fruits eaten on the day are carved into intricate shapes such as birds and flowers.
The custom of eating propitious dumplings in some places is quite entertaining: several close friends get together and make dumplings but instead of regular fillings a copper coin, a needle and a red date will be put into three dumplings respectively. After the pleading activities, they will eat the dumplings together. It is said that the one gets the coin will enjoy blessings, the one gets needle will have quick and skillful hands (paricularily while sewing), and the one gets the date will have an early marriage.