Weaving the Romance Back
Qixi, also known as the Double Seventh Festival, is similar to Valentine’s Day in the West. Celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, its origins trace back to a 2,000-year-old legend of starcrossed lovers – Zhinü, the goddess of weaving, and Niulang, a humble mortal cowherder. Their love was forbidden by the goddess of Heaven, who cast them to opposite sides of the Milky Way. But the lovers were able to reunite once a year by crossing a bridge of magpies on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
In the early days, the festival was known as the “Begging for Skills Festival,” during which girls prayed to Zhinü for wisdom, luck and good needlework skills, which were considered necessary to get married. Weaving and embroidery competitions were held among girls to see who was the most skilled and creative.
Nowadays, although celebrating Qixi is fashionable, some complain the rituals and traditions of the festival are being forgotten. The holiday, now heavily commercialized, is treated more like Valentine’s Day by couples and marketers alike, with the exchange of chocolates, candies, flowers and other gifts now dominating. Florists, chocolate vendors, luxury brands and major e-commerce platforms all profit heavily from the romantic festival.
Some critics worry that the day has lost its traditions, and urge those who celebrate the Qixi festival to consider its cultural roots again once again. But many around China continue these old ways, dressing in hanfu, or ceremonial robes, and performing weaving activities and other rituals.