Chinese Valentine’s Day is on the Seventh Day of the Seventh Month on the Chinese calendar, which falls on July 31st this year. Legend has it that the seventh daughter of the Emperor of Heaven, a weaving maid, fell in love and married a cowherd. They were overindulgent in their love and neglected their farming and weaving duties, which angered the Jade Emperor. As punishment, he exiled them to opposite banks of the Silver River (Milky Way), and only allows them to meet each other once a year on the night of the seventh day of the seventh month.
This legend has been handed down for nearly two millennia. The Chinese people believe that the star, Vega, east of the Milky Way, is Zhi Nu, and that Altair, on the western side of the Milky Way, is Niu Lang waiting for his wife.
The seventh day of the seventh lunar month is the only Chinese festival devoted to love in the lunar calendar. Chinese Valentine’s Day traditions abound and this special day is celebrated differently depending on the Chinese province.
Some of the many traditions include Chinese girls preparing fruits, melons, and incense as offerings to Zhi Nu, the weaving maiden, praying to acquire high skills in needlecraft, as well as hoping to find satisfactory husbands.
Girls place sewing needles on water. If the needle doesn’t sink, it’s a sign of the girl’s maturity and intelligence and she is ready and eligible to find a husband.
People in some Chinese provinces believe that decorating the horns of oxen with flowers will save them from catastrophe. Another tradition is for women to wash their hair to make it look fresh and shining.
On Chinese Valentine’s Day, young lovers go to the temple of the Matchmaker and pray for their love and happiness, and their possible marriage in China.
In the evening, people sit outside to observe the stars. On this night, Vega and Altair are closer together than at any other time of year. Chinese grannies say that if you stand under a grapevine, you can probably overhear what Zhi Nu and Niu Lang are saying to one another.