How many Valentine’s Days are there in China? Amazingly Three!
The answer is three:
Lantern Festival: 15th day of 1st lunar month
Shangsi Festival: 3rd day of 3rd lunar month
Qixi Festival: 7th day of 7th lunar month
Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao Festival)
Date: 15th day of 1st lunar month
Lantern Festival, also known as the Yuanxiao Festival and Shangyuan Festival, is the last important festival in the Chinese New Year. It was one of the most popular festivals among girls in ancient time as well, because there were a variety of lanterns on the busy streets at night of the Lantern Festival. In such a festival, everyone, including girls not allowed to go out on usual days, came out to enjoy the lights and guess the riddles on the lanterns, which was a good time for lovers to meet or date. In poems, operas and numerous novels of ancients, there were many scenes of the lovers’ confessions of love on the Lantern Festival. Therefore, Lantern Festival can be described as a China Valentine's Day since ancient time. Nowadays, many festival customs have gradually faded, and people are busier at work, so Lantern Festival is more like a continuation of the Chinese New Year.
Shangsi Festival (Double Third Festival)
Date: 3rd day of 3rd lunar month
The Shangsi Festival was originally to commemorate the Yellow Emperor, the ancestor of Chinese people. In order to celebrate the birth of the Yellow Emperor, people would go out on a spring tour or have a drink at the water's edges on the third day of third lunar month, which provided a good opportunity for lovers to have a date. And then it became one of the main activities of the Shangsi Festival for lovers to meet and to express their love. The “Book of Songs”, a book in Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), said that the Shangsi Festival had been regarded as China Valentine. However, feudal ethics became stricter since the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD), and the Shangsi Festival began to decline. Now this festival has been forgotten by most people, celebrated only by some minority groups like Zhuang people, Dong people and She people.
Qixi Festival (Double Seventh Festival)
Date: 7th day of 7th lunar month
Many present people think Qixi Festival as the China Valentine's Day. In fact, this festival raised in the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) was firstly known as Qiqiao Festival, which had nothing to do with love but was of great significance to women. With the various games and entertainment activities, women pray for ingenuity and good luck on Qixi Festival in the earlier time.
Later, people related this festival to legend of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. It is said the Weaver Girl, a fairy and the granddaughter of the Queen Mother of Heaven, went down to the mortal world, and privately married to the Cowherd. The Queen Mother of Heaven was so angry that the Weaver Girl was taken back to the Heavenly Palace, and the Cowherd and Weaver Girl were separated at two sides of the Milky Way. Their strong love moved magpies, and countless magpies used their bodies to form a bridge across the Milky Way on seventh day of seventh lunar month each year. Then the two lovers can reunite. Qixi Festival is thus regarded as Chinese Valentine up to now.