Love is universal, but Valentine’s Day is a Western holiday. How do Chinese people celebrate love?
Look no further than the story of The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl 牛郎织女 (niulang zhinü). Its the Romeo and Juliet of Chinese love stories. A man (dubbed the Cowherd) and an immortal woman (dubbed the Weaver Girl) fall in love. Like any good love story, their love is forbidden. Like a true Chinese story, they don’t have a happy ending.
The ancient love story inspired China’s own Valentine’s Day- the Qixi Festival (七夕节). It’s a holiday that billions of Chinese people have celebrated as far back as the Han dynasty.
Qixi Festival is on August 7th this year. But if you want to get creative for bae, then here are some Qixi date tips for February 14th.
1 Go Stargazing
Stars are central to The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl.
In the story, when the Weaver Girl is taken back to the heavens, the Cowherd tries to follow her. He ultimately fails. Queen Mother conjures a celestial river between them. The river separates them for eternity.
What does this have to do with the stars? The Cowherd is represented by the star Altair, while the Weaver Girl is represented by the Star Vega. The celestial river separating the two is the Milky Way.
Qixi Date Tip 1: Pick up a star chart. Find a cozy area (ideally, far from the hustle and bustle). Identify the stars with bae.
2 Make a Handmade Gift
The Weaver Girl is skilled at crafts, especially weaving (*hint* her name is weaver after all). So, during the Qixi Festival, girls would traditionally weave a gift for their bae.
What's the modern twist? Let's cancel the outdated gender norm, and express love for bae by making a handcrafted gift.
Qixi Date Tip 2: Make a floral arrangement or some origami for bae. Its thoughtful and you can avoid contributing to the consumerist Valentine’s Day market.
3 Have Some 巧果 (Qiaoguo)
Qixi Date Tip 3: Try making Qiaoguo together with bae (or if you're single, with friends).
Qiaoguo is a pastry made from eggs and flour. Qiao 巧 means “skill”- signifying the Weaver Girl’s skill with crafts. Having Qiaoguo to celebrate the Qixi Festival is a true Shanghai tradition.
HERE is recipe if you're daring enough to experiment in the kitchen (recipe is in Mandarin).
4 If You’re Single, Make Dumplings
In certain areas in Shandong, single ladies get together on Qixi to make Chinese dumplings, but with a twist. They hide items in three of the dumplings: a red date, a copper coin, and a needle.
Why these items? The person that finds them will get love (red date), fortune (copper coin), and skill (needle).
Qixi Date Tip 4: DO NOT place a needle or copper coin in your dumplings. It's dangerous! Instead, invite some friends over for a dumpling-making session. Hide a red date or two among the batch.
After all, Valentine’s Day doesn't have to be about bae. It can be a celebration of friendship too.