Qixi Festival Traditions - 18 Folk Customs in China
How do the Chinese celebrate Valentine’s Day? The Chinese version of Valentine’s Day is the Oixi Festival that is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. Among the many Qixi Festival traditions, some have gradually disappeared, but quite a few still continue. Let’s have a look.
1. Worship the Moon and Appreciate Stars
This is a primary Qixi Festival tradition. In Chinese traditional culture, the moon is an auspicious sign for women. On the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, girls and married women take a bath in water to which they have added several leaves. After bathing, they gather outdoors, eat seasonal fruits, and burn incense to worship the moon, view the stars, and share secrets and wishes with each other.
2. Handy Girl Competition
Chinese Valentine’s Day tradition includes several “handy girl” competitions:
Needle threading competition
Women thread colorful thread into a seven-holed needle. The one who threads the fastest is said to be handy and skillful in the future, while the one who threads the slowest must give a gift to the winner.
In the evening, every girl places a small spider in a box. If the next morning the spider’s web is round and dense, the girl will be handy. The rounder and denser the web is, the handier and more skillful the girl will be.
Sewing needle predictions
This is another way to predict whether or not a girl will be handy. First, the girl takes a sample of water during the daytime and another one at nighttime. Then she mixes the two samples together and lets it sit overnight. The next morning there will be a thin film over the water. Then it’s time to select the handy girls. Each girl puts a sewing needle gently on the film of her water sample. The needle will cast a shadow. If the shadow forms a shape such as a bent one, it is a sign that the girl will be skillful. If it is straight, she will not be so handy.
3. Worship the Weaver Girl
Worshiping the Weaver Girl is a purely girls’ and young women’s Qixi Festival tradition. The ceremony is held in somebody’s home under moonlight. They set a table with tea, wine, fruits, hazelnuts, peanuts, melon seeds and other sacrifices. Flowers are put into a bottle that has been covered with red paper, and a small incense burner is put in front of the flowers. After they have bathed, the young women and girls who are worshiping the Weaver Girl arrive at appointed time. After praying in front of the table, everyone sits around the table eating peanuts and melon seeds, and chatting until the middle of the night.
4. Worship Qiniangma Goddess
The Qixi Festival in southern Fujian and Taiwan is also the birthday of Qiniangma, who is regarded as a symbol of safety and health. On this day, people gather in groups to worship Qiniangma with flowers, fruits, and gifts. Taiwanese also hold a “coming of age ceremony”. That is, when the child reaches the age of 15, the parents give gifts to the Qiniang Temple together with their children, and thank Qininagma for protecting the children through their childhood and adolescence.
5. Worship Kuixing Star
In traditional Chinese culture, Kuixing Star, the first star of the Big Dipper, is in charge of the imperial examination. Kuixing’s birthday is July 7. Scholars and students who want to get good grades in the examination worship on that day to request good results.
6. Sowing Seeds to Wish for a Baby
This Qixi Festival tradition celebrates people’s wish to give birth. A few days before the festival, Women who want to get pregnant plant seeds on a small wooden board with a layer of soil. When the tender green seedlings sprout, they add some small huts and flowers, making it look like a small village in the field.
7. Eat Qiaoguo
Qiaoguo is a kind of sweet pastry. There are many styles and types of Qiaoguo. The main materials are oil, noodles, sugar and honey.
See also 10 Traditional Qixi Festival Foods
8. Welcome Fairies
This is a Qixi Festival tradition in Guangzhou, Guangdong. Before Qixi, girls make some lovely gadgets with colorful lines and papers, and put mung beans in a basin filled with water to make them sprout. On the sixth and seventh day of the seventh lunar month, the girls put on new clothes and jewelry. They put the mung bean sprouts and the gadgets on the incense table, burn the candles and bow to the stars. This is called “welcoming fairies”.
9. Swim in the River Where the Seven Fairies Bathed
It is said that seven fairies will come down to the earth and bathe in the rivers during the Qixi Festival, thus rivers become magic and will not only bring good luck but also prevent diseases. In Jiangxi, Baise of Guangxi, and some other places, people believe that the water on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month is holy and clean. It can exorcise evil, prevent disease and bring happiness to people. So people swim in rivers on Qixi.
10. Store Qixi Water
In Guangdong, the morning of Qixi, each family goes to the well or the river to fetch water to save for future use. It is said that Qixi water has a magical function. It can be used for treatment of burns and removing sores.
11. Celebrate the Cows
This is an interesting Qixi Festival custom for children. In the old days, children picked wild flowers and hung them on the horns of cows. Legend has it that when the Heavenly Queen Mother separated the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, an old cow loaned his skin to the Cowherd to use to cross the Milky Way to visit the Weaver Girl. Children commemorate the sacrifice of the old cow by hanging flowers on cows’ horns.
12. Worship the Bed God
Worshiping the Bed God is one of the Chinese Valentine’s Day traditions in Taiwan. The seventh day of the seventh lunar month is the birthday of the Bed God. The Bed God is the child’s patron and can protect children as they grow up until he or she is sixteen years old.
13. Dying Fingernails
Fingernail dyeing is a Qixi tradition in the southwestern part of China. Girls dye their fingernails with a special kind of flower called impatiens balsamina. They smash the flowers, put them on their nails, and then wrap the nails with leaves. After a few hours, the nails are dyed a beautiful red.
14. Hair Washing
On Chinese Valentine’s Day, young girls in many areas like to wash their hair with water in which leaves have been soaked. Tradition has it that washing their hair on that day can make women young and beautiful and help unmarried girls find their future husband.
15. Airing Out Clothes and Books
In ancient times, people hung their clothes and placed their books outside to show off their wealth and knowledge and to show gratitude and respect to the sun. The fact is that clothing, books, and other items are susceptible to moisture and insects and can mildew easily; exposing them to the strong sunlight at this time can kill mites and prevent mildew. This custom has disappeared.
16. Make a Qiaogu Scarecrow
The Loess Plateau region of Shaanxi, has observes some unique customs and activities on the night of Qixi Festival. Women often make a Qiaogu scarecrow and there are paper-cutting competitions.
17. Consecrate Mohele, the Qixi Mascot
A Mohele is a small children’s doll that was popular in the Qixi Festival during the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). In the Song Dynasty, people not only considered Mohele a symbol of the Qixi Festival, but also increased the size and proportion of the doll making it easier to play with. Moheles were also made into historical figures that were educational for kids.
18. Tie the Hair with Red Rope
Another Oixi tradition is for parents to tie red rope into their children’s hair on this day. It is believed that this will help them stay healthy and have long lives.