China not only has its own New Year, but also celebrates its own Valentine’s Day. Generated from an age-old love story involving a queen’s daughter and a cowboy, the Qixi Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, usually in early August, CNN reports.
On the Chinese Valentine’s Day, men who want to impress their partners typically book luxury dinners and shower them with roses, according to China Daily. But it’s not a completely private affair. Cities such as Xi’an, Fuzhou and Beijing, hold Qixi ceremonies where couples wear traditional Chinese costumes in accordance with the ancient legend. So how does it go?
According to China Daily, it starts in the stars. Vega, a star on the east side of the Milky Way, represents the weaving girl. Aquila on the west side, the cowboy awaiting his wife. But for the company of an ox, the cowboy lived a sad, pitiful life alone while the weaving girl spent her days creating brilliant tapestries of clouds as the daughter of the Queen of Heaven.
When the cowboy crossed paths with the weaving girl, the pair fell in love and the girl stayed on earth with the cowboy. But the Queen wasn’t having it. The weaving girl’s mother pulled her back up into the Heavens, leaving the cowboy heartbroken and miserable.
Eventually the Queen caved and let the two meet once a year on August 4. Supposedly, the essence of Chinese Valentine’s Day is based off of this legend, but spinoff traditions have emerged since then. Superstition and faith drive some Chinese girls to offer fruit to deities in hopes for a good match or couples heading to temple to pray for a prosperous, healthy life together.
The Atlantic also notes that while the Western version is beginning to take hold, it has become more common for homosexual Chinese citizens to leverage Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 and organize campaigns to rally public support for same-sex marriage.