People pay tribute to celestial phenomena to mark the festival. Altair, or the star of Niu Lang (cowboy), and Vega, or the star of Zhi Nv (female weaver), are the closest to each other on July 7 on the lunar calendar. People believe this to be a once-a-year date for the two lovers, so they call the festival Chinese Valentines’ Day, which is also observed in some parts of East and Southeast Asia.
The earliest record of the festival goes back to the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220). In ancient times, Chinese people believed Jan 1, Feb 2, March 3, May 5, June 6, July 7 and Sept 9 on the lunar calendar to be auspicious days, the days when Earth (meaning people) and Heaven communicate with each other. People also believed the sun and the moon, along with Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn were the “seven luminaries”. As a result, seven became a magic and auspicious number.
According to traditional Chinese medicine theory, a man’s life is measured in eight-year cycles and a woman’s in seven-year cycles. A lot of physical changes take place in men and women every eight and every seven years, respectively.
So, many closely relate Qixi Festival, or double seven day (July 7 on the lunar calendar), with women. The most important custom associated with the day is qiqiao, or begging a deity for dexterity and happiness. Young women offer fresh fruits as oblations to the moon, asking Zhi Nv to bless them with a happy life, ideal lover and a pair of skillful hands.
The festival was also called Qiqiao Festival in ancient times, and is probably the only festival specifically for women.