Weav­ing the Ro­mance Back

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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.

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