The Real Chinese Valentine’s Day
The international Valentine’s Day on the February 14th is celebrated by modern Chinese couples. Actually, the Chinese has their own Chinese Valentine’s Day equivalent. In fact, there are three of them: the Lantern Festival, the Shangsi Festival, and the Qixi Festival. Let’s get to know each Chinese celebration of love.
The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. In the ancient time, young women were not allowed to go out freely. Hence the Lantern Festival provided opportunities for unmarried men and women to meet with each other. Through the activities of lantern viewing and riddle guessing, single men and women looked for romance and marriages on the night of the Lantern Festival.
The festival itself is not an exclusive event for single men and women, rather it is a folk festival filled with many activities. Riddles were hung on the lanterns for people walking along the lantern market to guess. Historical romance Chinese dramas such as Unchained Love shows what the Lantern Festival was like in the past.
The Shangsi Festival, also called the Peach Blossom Festival, is celebrated on the third day of the third lunar month. This festival is less known. In the ancient times, girls would play by the water wearing beautiful clothes, picking orchids, singing and dancing to drive away evil spirits. The main activity during the Shangsi Festival is the meeting of lovers. Lovers would walk by the river and give each other willows as a token of love.
The Qixi Festival is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. In ancient times, Qixi was a festival for girls. On this day, which is the birthday celebration of the goddess Weaver Girl, a protector of lovers, women and children, girls would pray for wisdom, skills and a happy marriage from the goddess.
Later Qixi has evolved into a festival of love celebrating the love story between the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. According to the legend, one day seven fairies came to earth to bathe. Niulang the Cowherd chanced upon them and fell in love with one of the fairies. They got married and the Weaver Girl stayed on earth. The Emperor of Heaven became furious upon learning that a human had stolen his fairy and fetched the Weaver Girl back to heaven. The magpies took pity of the Cowherd and formed a bridge to heaven. However, the Queen Mother of the West drew a milky way to block the bridge. Finally, the Emperor of Heaven was moved and let the lovers meet once a year on July 7th. Hence, this festival is also known as the Double Seven Festival.
情人节快乐 (Qíngrén jié kuàilè) is how you wish someone a Happy Valentine’s Day (literally, the phrase means ‘Happy Lover’s Day’). 情人 means ‘lover(s)’. Sign up for Chinese classes with ALS to learn more interesting Chinese cultures and language.