Chinese Festivals | Valentines Day
Chinese Valentines Day ~ Let's Carve Melons Then!
Why carve melons? Well, it was traditionally a way to demonstrate the domestic skills of a young woman to any potential suitors! As well as melon carving, they would display samples of fried cookies, embroidery, quilting and other handicraft. More recently, this practice has waned because of the more modern attitude of couples towards shared domestic duties in China. Chinese Valentines Day is also known as "Qixi Festival" (the Night of Sevens), "Double Seventh Festival" or "Magpie Festival". It is not a gazetted public holiday in China, but is still popular amongst young people.
Image by OH SHUT UP | Lens Updated: May 27th, 2012 @ 10:30 pm Beijing time.
Qi Xi Jie...
originated from the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE)
Read About Qixi Festival on Wikipedia!
Have a look at what the online reference says...
Qixi Festival (qi xi jie); literally "The Night of Sevens"), also known as Magpie Festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month on the Chinese calendar; thus its name. It also inspired Tanabata in Japan, Chilseok in Korea, and That Tich in Vietnam. It is sometimes called 'Chinese Valentines Day' in recent years.
Young girls traditionally demonstrate their domestic arts, especially melon carving, on this day and make wishes for a good husband. It is also known by the following names:
* The Festival to Plead for Skills (qi qiao jie)
* The Seventh Sister's Birthday (qi jie dan)
* The Night of Skills (qiao xi)
Why Carved Melons on Chinese Valentines Day? - A way for a young woman to show her culinary skills to a suitor...
Image by smiley_river! Who wouldn't want to marry the clever young woman who carved these melons? What about someone who offered you delicious fried cookies, or showed their expertise in embroidery? Domestic handicrafts were traditionally displayed during this festival, so the young women could attract a partner. In addition, altars were prepared, and offerings of pastries and fruit were prayed over, to make them an intelligent and resourceful partner!
Some families sit outside in the evening to view the stars and observe the proximity of Niu Lang (the star Altair) and Zhi Nu (the star Vega). In some areas, seven close friends gather to make dumplings (jiao zi). In three of the dumplings a needle, a copper coin and a red date are placed, representing perfect needlework skills, good fortune and an early marriage.
In some Chinese provinces, people believe that decorating flowers on an ox's horn during Chinese Valentine's Day enables them to prevent disaster. On the night of Valentine's Day, women wash their hair to give it a fresh and shiny appearance. Children wash their face the morning after Valentine's Day using the overnight water from their backyards to have a much more naturally beautiful appearance. Girls throw five-coloured ropes, made during Chinese Dragon Boat festival, on the roof for the magpies. Magpies will carry these ropes to build the heavenly bridge. (I wonder whose job it is to retrieve the ropes from the roof?)
In urban China, many young people don't celebrate with this traditional form of activity any more. Instead, they have taken the customs from western society and this charming festival has been commercialised. Perhaps it's just as well, because the modern young woman in China works a long and arduous schedule. Many florists, confectioners, bar owners and gift shops enjoy the increased spending power of young people in China, particularly during Double Seventh Festival!
Romantic Legend Behind Double Seventh Festival! - Read about the love story of the boy cowherd and the girl weaver...
There is a romantic tale about a cowherd (Niu Lang) and a girl weaver (Zhi Nu) that gives background to this festival. As with many Chinese festivals it is part of the lunar calendar, and has an astronomical underpinning.
The legend begins with a poor young cowherd, named Niu Lang, who was cast out by his brother and evil sister-in-law after his parents died. Niu Lang left with an old ox and built a small thatched cottage in the side of a mountain. He somehow eked out an existence by working hard with, and caring for, his ox.
One day, the ox spoke to him and told him that he used to be the bright star, Taurus, who was banished from the heavenly kingdom for stealing grain seed and bringing it to earth to share with the mortals. The ox told Niu Lang that 7 beautiful goddesses would come to bathe in a nearby pond in several days. One of them, the youngest, was Zhi Nu. She was the most beautiful in all the universe! He was to remove her clothes while she was in the pond and she would become his wife.
Sure enough, when Niu Lang made a dash for her clothes, Zhi Nu's sisters all gathered their belongings and fled. The young couple fell in love and were married, even though it was forbidden for mortals and gods to do so. Zhi Nu had twins; a boy named Gold and a girl named Jade, and they lived together as a happy family until the ox became old and ill.
While he was dying, the ox told them to remove his hide and store it carefully as it would allow anyone who wore it to fly - even up to heaven! Shortly afterwards, Zhi Nu's parents found out about this marriage and the enraged Heavenly Queen flew down to earth with soldiers and dragged her daughter back home. Niu Lang came home and found the twins devastated after losing their mother, so he placed them in wicker baskets on a pole over his shoulders and donned the magic ox-hide then flew after Zhi Nu with the children.
The Queen saw them following and cast a spell to create a raging torrent to separate them from each other. After some time, the heavenly King and Queen tired of listening to the crying children so they allowed the family to be reunited, once every year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. When this annual event takes place, scores of magpies fly into the heavens and form a bridge for the loving family to be joined for a brief time.
Astronomy and the Double Seventh Festival! - Try and see if you can locate these stars in the night sky...
Image from Wikimedia
The heavenly river can be seen in the sky as the Milky Way and Niu Lang is the star Altair while Zhi Nu is Vega. East of the Milky Way, Altair is the middle of a line of three stars, the others (Alshain and Tarazed - not shown) are the twins. In the south-east there are six stars in the shape of an ox (Capricornus). Vega lies to the west and the stars around her form the shape of a weaver's loom. Every year, the two stars of Altair and Vega are closest together on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
"Boy Cowherd and the Weaver Girl" on Amazon! - Learn more about the legend behind Chinese Valentine's Day...
A Happy Chinese Valentines Day to Everybody! - (Qi Xi Jie Kuai Le)
Image by elbfoto
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