In our previous articles we promised that we would continue to share different interesting facts about Chinese holidays and customs.
This article is dedicated to a romantic Qi Xi festival (七夕节; qī xī jié) or as it is also called Double Seventh Festival, Night of Seventh, Magpie Festival and Chinese Valentine’s Day. It is celebrated on the seventh day of seventh lunar month, this year it will be on August 9th.
Once upon a time there lived poor orphaned cowherd Niulang and a girl Zhinu, weaver and 7th daughter of Goddess and Emperor of Heaven. After parents of Niulang passed away, he was living with his older brother and sister-in-law. They were very cruel to Niulang and eventually kicked him out. All that he had were some clothes and old ox.
Actually, the ox was a former God of Cattle, but he was expelled from there, because he broke the Law of Heaven that is why he had to live in the semblance of an ox. Niulang treated him very well and loved him, ox highly appreciated boy’s kindness and as a gratitude, he wanted to acquaint boy with the beautiful girl Zhinu.
She was the seventh daughter of Goddess, which got bored from the heavens life and came down to the Earth to see how mortal people live. When they first meet each other, they fell in love and got married, it was love at first sight. Shortly, after their wedding they become parents of two children, a boy and a girl. Niulang was working on the field, Zhinu was weaving every day, and they were happy.
However, their happiness didn’t last long. When Goddess of Heaven (Zhinu’s mother) found out that her daughter got married with a mortal, she got furious. She ordered celestial soldiers to bring her daughter back whatever it takes. When Niulang found out that his wife had been taken back to heaven, he felt despair. However, the old ox gave Niulang an advice to kill him and put his skin on, so that he could get to heaven. Sadly, but Niulang has no other choice, so he killed old ox, put his skin on and carried his two beloved children off to Heaven to find Zhinu.
When he reached the heaven and finally saw Zhinu the Goddess separated them forever by a huge river that later became to be known as the Milky Way. Broken Niulang was only been able to weep sadly, but their true love moved all magpies in the world and they flew up into heaven to form a bridge over the river so they could meet again over there. The cold heart of cruel Goddess has melted so she allowed them to meet each other on that bridge every year on the same day (the seventh day of the seventh lunar month).
This festival has a lot of traditions and customs of the celebration. One of the most important activities of Qi Xi festival is worshipping to Zhinu.
It is usually organized by young sisters (and females cousins), both married and single. They prepare a table with tea, wine, fruits, hazelnuts, peanuts, and melon seeds. On the Double Seventh Day eve, young women sit around the table and try their best to show needlework skills and compete for the best mastery with others.
Moreover, they pray for good husband and happy life, play games and read poems until midnight. On this day, it is very important for young women to show their skills in different spheres. Another one interesting tradition is making and eating “Skill fruit”. Chinese usually prepare skillfully made snacks: fried, thin pastries of different shapes, made from oil, flour, sugar, and honey.
The recipe is so simple, so if you will have great mood and will be curious about this meal you can try to cook it by yourself. It is cooked as follows: First put some sugar into a pot and boil it into a syrup, then add flour and sesame seeds, and mix into a dough. Put the dough on a table, and roll the pastry out until very thin. Cut the pastry into squares and fold them into fusiform shapes (wide in the middle, tapering at the ends). Lastly, fry the pastries until they turn golden yellow.
Nowadays, most of traditions are disappearing or even no longer observed. With the influence of globalization, traditional customs have transformed but even though, Qi Xi is still celebrated nowadays in some provinces. These days’ people usually give each other flowers, chocolates and other presents. However, true and deep love of Niulang and Zhinu will be always in the hearts of Chinese people and this legend, probably will be told from one generation to another.