As the sultry days of August are upon us, there’s another celebration ready to heat things up, especially among lovers and couples. The Qixi Festival, also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day or the Double-Sevens Festival (because it falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar — Aug 17 this year), is a traditional Chinese holiday that has surged in popularity in recent years.
If you happen to have someone special in your life, how should you celebrate Qixi Festival? What are some popular gifts for Qixi Festival? Here are a few ideas I’ve culled together, whether you’re making purchases or plans or just curious about this Chinese Valentine’s Day.
Qixi Festival: Popular Gifts
If there’s anyone who knows what people usually buy for Qixi Festival, it’s China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, and here’s what they found in an article in China Daily: “Alibaba claims that the number of people searching key words such as flowers, roses, and chocolates on online shopping websites increases dramatically around Qixi.”
In other words, your Valentine’s Day standards make for excellent gifts for Qixi Festival, if you’re buying for someone special, like a girlfriend or boyfriend, husband or wife.
But the same China Daily article gives additional visual cues through the photographs included in the story.
There’s gorgeous cake frosted in pink with special Qixi Festival greetings written on the top, which could inspire you to give your loved one a sweet surprise – a cake or dessert — for the holiday as well.
Another photo shows a boyfriend presenting his girlfriend with a gold necklace for Qixi Festival. So add jewelry – another typical gift of Valentine’s Day – to your list of possibilities.
Qixi Festival: Popular Ways to Celebrate
Have a romantic candlelit meal together
As this China Daily article notes, “Chinese people embrace their own “Valentine’s Day” Tuesday, when lovers send each other gifts or have romantic candlelit meals together.” So yes, why not make reservations for two at that restaurant in town with the breathtaking views, cozy interiors and, perhaps, a history of people getting on one knee with a ring in their hands. It may sound utterly clichéd and unoriginal, but sometimes we all crave a little something corny (and delicious!) in our lives.
And if you’re not attached yet, just gather together your closest friends – who doesn’t love an excuse for a nice meal with good company?
Long-distance lovers make contact
Qixi Festival might just be the ultimate holiday honoring anyone “going the distance” in a relationship, and that’s because of the story behind it. As I wrote earlier in Gifts for the Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentine’s Day):
The story goes that once an oxherd, Niulang, and weaving girl, Zhinu, fell in love after he caught a glimpse of her bathing and stole her clothes. Instead of getting a good slap, Niulang got lucky (literally) and got married. The couple had two kids, lived happily ever after — that is, until the heavens (or, in some stories, her mother) realized their love went against natural laws: mortals and fairies cannot marry. She was banished up to the heavens forever, some say to go back to her real job of weaving the clouds. Still, Niulang loved her so much he couldn’t stay away. On the advice of an ox, he slaughtered it (let’s hope that ox got a real good deal in heaven), dressed in its hide, and then traveled up to the heavens to see her. But — aiya! — the heavens interfered by scratching a wide river in the heavens to separate the two lovers, forcing Niulang and Zhinu to stare longingly at each other from opposite banks. Then the magpies took pity on them and formed a bridge over the Milky Way on the seventh day of the seventh moon, bringing the stars together (this also happens in the Northern night sky, when the stars Altair and Vega, representing Niulang and Zhinu, get close). Thus, you have Qixi, the Chinese Valentine’s Day.
So if you’re separated from a loved one – whether a lover, spouse, relative or friend – why not follow in the footsteps of Niulang and Zhinu and reunite for the Qixi Festival? These Chinese couples did just that, flying across the country to be together. But even if you can’t manage the trip, do a virtual meeting with a video call and let them know how much you care.
Get matched or even married
Wang Juan with the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Peking University, said that Qixi was for young women and girls to get together, do embroidery and pray for good needlework skills which in turn would help them find a partner.
Though people today rarely do needlework, finding a mate is still an important part of the day. Traditional, commercial matchmaking events are held in parks.
So technically, you could give matchmaking a go, whether that’s attending a speed-dating event, giving online dating a try or even “swiping right” on someone in your dating apps.
And yes, if you’re already engaged (or about to be), you could follow in the footsteps of these couples in China, who participated in a mass wedding dressed in traditional Chinese garb.
Or you could take the holiday as a chance to reminisce: “Chen Yi, in his fifties, from Changsha, capital of central China’s Hunan province, said he does not envy young people celebrating the festival, but is reminded of the good old days when he and his wife enjoyed a simple, romantic relationship.”
Do a little stargazing
Since Qixi Festival has its own celestial symbols – with the stars Altair and Vega, representing Niulang and Zhinu – you could look up at the night sky on a clear evening on or near Qixi Festival and observe the two heavenly bodies as they make their annual reunion.
And you wouldn’t be the first one, as China Daily reported:
Guo Houchi, a college student from Changsha, remembers his mother telling him stories about Qixi.
“She told me that when she was young she would go out on the night of Qixi to see the stars in the sky and try to find Niu Lang and Zhi Nu. It sounded like such a romantic way to celebrate.”
How will you celebrate Qixi Festival, the Chinese Valentine’s Day?