The QiXi festival is known by several other names, including the Double Seventh Festival, Qiqiao, Chinese Valentine and the Festival of Young Girls. It is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, which this year is today, 20th August 2015.
It celebrates the legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu, and for this reason it has come to be associated with love and romance.
Traditionally the festival was a time when young girls would pray for good skills in needlework which would help them to find a good husband. They have various sewing competitions, such as making things and threading needles as quickly as possible by moonlight or candlelight.
One custom is to drop a needle into water. If it floats the girl is already highly skilled at needlework; if it sinks she needs more practice. Another is for 7 close female friends to make dumplings together. They place a needle, a copper coin and a date into three of the dumplings and then eat them. Whoever finds the needle with be blessed with good needlework skills. The girl who finds the coin will be wealthy, and the one who finds the date will have an early marriage.
In some parts of China, children would hang flowers from the horns of oxen to celebrate the old ox in the legend.
Today the festival is heavily influenced by western traditions and so it is celebrated in the same way as St Valentine’s Day, with flowers and chocolates being exchanged.
Related post: Chinese New Year