Sharing Tradition Worldwide: The Qixi

Happy Chinese Valentine’s Day! Well, sort of.

Today, mostly in China, the Qixi Festival is celebrated. An Asian holiday similar to the American “Valentine’s Day,” the Qixi is in honor of an old tale that says the Milky Way was created to separate two lovers; one a human boy, Niulang, and the other a fairy girl, Zhinü . However, on the seventh Lunar night of the seventh Lunar month, (which happens to fall on today’s 2012 date), the two lovers would come together in a passionate reunion.

Zhinü, the fairy weaver, was bored with Heaven and went to explore Earth when she met a young cowherd, Niulang. The two instantly fell in love and were married without the consent of the weaver’s goddess mother, and even had two children with the mortal man.

Once Zhinü’s goddess mother ordered her back to heaven, Niulang became depressed. One day, his ox told Niulang that if he were to kill him and wear his hide, he would be able to go up to heaven and see his fairy wife.

The cowherd killed the ox and flew up to heaven. When Zhinü’s mother got word, she took her hair pin out and sliced a divider in the sky. The gap became a galactic river that she thought would keep the mortal and her fairy daughter apart forever.

Once a year, other beings in the fairy’s universe would build a bridge to bring the two lovers together for one night out of pity.

The holiday is celebrated by retelling the story under the stars Altair and Vega, symbols for the two ancient lovers. The holiday is much like St. Valentine’s Day, where couples and lovers court one another and exchange small presents. 

The cutest part of the modern Qixi gift-giving tradition? Fireflies are a popular gift from man to woman, as an illuminating symbol of love.

A great myth about the Qixi, is that on this day it will likely rain because of all the crying in heaven. Another says, if you stand under grapevines at night you can hear the lovers talking.

If Valentine’s Day is your thing and you just cannot wait until the New Year for all the excitement of love, candy, dining out and wooing your lover, go on and celebrate Qixi.

Just remember to tell your significant other the story, first. It is a great tale to know and share!

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Fairy of the Magpie Bridge

Among the beautiful clouds
Over the heavenly river
Crosses the weaving maiden.

A night of rendezvous
Across the autumn sky
Surpasses joy on earth.

Moments of tender love and dream
So sad to leave the magpie bridge.

Eternal love between us two
Shall withstand the time apart.