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If you have heard or studied the story of the Cowherd and the Weaver (牛郎织女niú láng zhī nǚ), then you must have a gist of the sphere of its influence. It impacted the lives of people on multiple levels. It also inspired narratives and even cultural festivities. After all, it is a story of boundless love, a genre we all adore.
In China, people revere the story immensely. So much so that they created a festival to commemorate the story. Celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, we call the celebration Qixi Festival (七夕节Qī Xī Jié).
Qixi Festival goes by many names. People also call it the Qiqiao Festival (乞巧节Qǐ Qiǎo Jié), Qiqiao Festival (七巧节Qī Qiǎo Jié), or Qijie Festival (七姐诞Qī Jiě Dàn). It is a festive celebration inspired by the traditional story of the Cowherd and the Weaver.
The Qixi Festival originated in China and is considered one of the most paramount traditional folk festivals. People love the celebration because of its theme: love. In the past, the celebration is the most imperative day for women. That is because of the romantic festivities during the festival.
However, the essence of the festival inevitably dampens over the years. Many customs and traditions did not survive the test of time. Nonetheless, the festivities during Qixi Festival remain romantic. It has become a symbol of love and boundless affection that will survive any challenges; even time.
That is why today, we will learn the different festivities and customs celebrated in the modern Qixi festival!
In ancient China, the cusp of the Qixi festival plays an imperative role in culture and agriculture. A few days before the festival, people will sow a layer of soil on a small wooden board. That way, they will harvest seeds of corn. That will conceive green tender seedlings. People will proceed to make a diorama consisting of small huts, flowers, and branches, making a small village of Tinashe people.
People call this the “shell board,” or soak mung beans, adzuki beans, wheat, etc. After, they will place these beans in a magnetic bowl. After a few days, the seeds will grow buds. People will tie these buds into a bundle with red and blue silk ropes called “seed birth.”
People believe that the seed birth is a symbol of fertility. Women who want to have children engage in this tradition. They maintain that the seeds are blessings for child-bearing.
“Worshiping the Weaver Girl” is purely a matter for girls and young women. It is a ritualistic ceremony that requires a group. Most participants in this tradition make appointments with their friends or neighbors in advance. Usually, there are only five or six people. However, it can extend as much as ten.
The ceremony held is to set up a table under the moonlight. The group will place tea, wine, fruit, five seeds (longan, red dates, hazelnuts, peanuts, melon seeds), flowers, and a small incense burner adjacent to the blossoms. People also prepare a bunch of red paper inserted in bottles.
Once the preparations are in order, the young women and girls who have made an appointment to worship the Weaver Girl. They will fast for a day, take a shower, and come to the host’s house on time. At this point, women will contemplate and transcend deeper in their thoughts. Toward the Vega constellation, they will meditate on their desires and aspiration, mostly regarding romantic life. For example, girls wishing to look beautiful or marry a wishful man, and young women wishing to conceive, can all pray to Vega.
They continuously meditate until midnight.
Another enchanting custom during the Qixi festival is Nail dyeing. It is one of the oldest traditions during the celebration. It started in southwest China but spread across the country. It is also common in many counties like Sichuan Province, Guizhou, and Guangdong.
However, before painting the nails, young girls in many areas like to wash their hair with tree sap mixed with water during festivals. They believe that it keeps youthful beauty intact. Moreover, it allows them to find a good as soon as possible. After ensuring the freshness of the physical comes, Dyeing nails with flowers and plants.
It is a hobby of most women and children in festival entertainment. Women believe that this custom blesses them with fertility.
Of course, the Qixi festival is not only about romance. People also commemorate different characters in the story. One of them is Niu.
In the celebration of Niu’s birthday, children will pick wildflowers and hang them on the horns during the Qixi Festival, also known as “Helping the Niu’s Birthday.” People believe that after the Queen Mother of the West used the Tianhe to separate the Cowherd and the Weaving Maid, the old cow asked the Cowherd to shave off his skin and drive his cowhide to see the Weaving Maiden allowing the Cowherd to cross the Tianhe River to see the Weaver Girl. To commemorate the sacrifice of the old cow, people have the custom of “celebrating the cow’s birthday.”
It is a gallant celebration that recognizes the oblation of Niu.
The Qixi festival is one example of how ancient stories can be impactful. It shows how mythological stories play an immense part in the formation of culture and tradition. It connects, inspires, and builds a community.
Plus, the Qixi festival is one of the most romantic festivals in China! If ever you want to have your heart melted and put butterflies in your stomach, you should participate in the customs of this celebration! It is literally a celebration of love and boundless adoration!
Till next time!
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