Qixi Festival (七夕节) is also known as Qiqiao Festical (七巧节) or Seven Sisters Festival (七姐诞). This day falls on 7th of the 7th Chinese Lunar Month, therefore, it is also called Double Seventh Festival. A day that falls on the Chinese Hungry Ghost Month. Qixi Festival (七夕节) is an important festival, especially for young girls, teenage girls and young women.
In Korea , it is known as Chilseok Festival (칠석). It celebrates the meeting of the deities Jiknyeo and Gyeonwu.
In Japan , it is known as Tanabata Festival (たなばた or 七夕). It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi.
Legend of Niulang(牛郎; "cowherd") & Zhinü (织女; "weaver girl")
The general tale is about a love story between Zhinü (织女) - The weaver girl, symbolizing Vega and Niulang(牛郎) - the cowherd, symbolizing Altair. Their love was not allowed, thus they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River(银河) - Symbolizing the Milky Way. Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for one day. There are many variations of the story.
One of the popular Version..
The seven daughters (七姐妹) of the Goddess of Heaven - Wang Mu Niang Niang (王母娘娘) caught the eye of a Cow Herder - Niulang(牛郎), during one of their visits to earth. The daughters were bathing in a river and the Cow Herder - Niulang(牛郎), decided to have a bit of fun by running off with their clothing. It fell upon the prettiest daughter (who happened to be the seventh born), to ask him to return their clothes.
Of course, since Niu Lang had seen the daughter, Zhinü (织女), naked, they had to be married. The couple lived happily for several years. Eventually however, the Goddess of Heaven became fed up with her daughter's absence, and ordered her to return to heaven. However, the mother took pity on the couple and allowed them to be reunited once a year. Legend has it that on the seventh night of the seventh moon, magpies form a bridge with their wings for Zhinü (织女) to cross to meet her husband.
The Vega Star & Altair Star
Zhinü (织女) - The weaver girl, symbolizes Vega Star.
Niulang(牛郎) - the cowherd, symbolizes Altair Star.
Vega (α Lyr, α Lyrae, Alpha Lyrae) is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, the fifth brightest star in the night sky and the second brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, after Arcturus. It is a relatively close star at only 25 light-years from Earth, and, together with Arcturus and Sirius, one of the most luminous stars in the Sun's neighborhood.
Altair (Alpha Aquilae, Alpha Aql, α Aquilae, α Aql, Atair) is the brightest star in the constellation Aquila and the twelfth brightest star in the night sky. It is currently in the G-cloud. Altair is an A-type main sequence star with an apparent visual magnitude of 0.77 and is one of the vertices of the Summer Triangle (the other two vertices are marked by Deneb and Vega).
During the 7th of the 7th Chinese Lunar Month, the Chinese gaze to the sky to look for Vega and Altair shining in the Milky Way, while a third star forms a symbolic bridge between the two stars.
Traditions, Rituals and Celebrations
Young girls partake in worshiping the celestial beings (拜仙) during rituals. They go to the local temples to pray to Zhinü (织女) for wisdom. In some dialect groups, they pray to all the Seven Sisters (七姐妹). Paper items are usually burned as offerings. Girls may also recite traditional prayers for dexterity in needlework, which symbolize the traditional talents of a good spouse. Divination could take place to determine possible dexterity in needlework. They make wishes for marrying someone who would be a good and loving husband. During the festival, girls make a display of their domestic skills.
Traditionally, there would be contests amongst young girls who attempted to be the best in threading needles under low-light conditions like the glow of ember or a half moon. Today, girls sometimes gather toiletries in honor of the seven maidens.
The festival also held an importance for newly-wed couples. Traditionally, they would worship the celestial couple for the last time and bid farewell to them (辞仙). The celebration stood symbol for a happy marriage and showed that the married woman was treasured by her new family.
During this festival, a festoon is placed in the yard. Single and newly-wed women make offerings to Niulang and Zhinü, which may include fruit, flowers, tea, and face powder. After finishing the offerings, half of the face powder is thrown on the roof and the other half divided among the young women. It is believed that by doing this, the women are bound in beauty with Zhinü. Tales say that it will rain on this fateful day if there's crying in heaven. Other tales say that you can hear the lovers talking if you stand under grapevines on this night.
On this day, the Chinese gaze to the sky to look for Vega and Altair shining in the Milky Way, while a third star forms a symbolic bridge between the two stars. It was said that if it rains on this day that it was caused by a river sweeping away the magpie bridge, or that the rain is the tears of the separated couple. Based on the legend of a flock of magpies forming a bridge to reunite the couple, a pair of magpies came to symbolize conjugal happiness and faithfulness.