Today is August 19, 2007 which also happens to be the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This day is dedicated to love and is the Chinese equivalent to Valentine’s day.
The legend behind this day dates back more than 2000 years and has been recounted by poets and in Chinese operas for generations since then. It resembles those found in Greek mythology, as it also goes on to explain some of the natural phenomena we encounter in our world.
The story begins with the seven fairy daughters of the Emperor of Heaven coming down to earth to bathe in a river one evening. An orphaned cowherd came across them and was memorized by the beauty of the youngest daughter, so he proceeded to steal her clothes that were lying on the riverside. The fairies finished their bath and flew back to heaven, leaving behind their youngest sister who had no clothes. The cowherd asked her to stay on earth and marry him, which she agreed to do.
They lived a happy life for several years, before the Queen demanded the return of her daughter back to Heaven. The cowherd chased after her into the sky. On seeing him, the Queen used a hairpin to create a line in the sky, separating the two. That line turned into the Milky Way. From then on, the two lived on different stars – Altair and Vega. Taking pity on them, the Queen allowed them to visit each other once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh moon.
Legend has it that on this day, magpies fly into the sky to create a bridge for the two to meet. Five color ropes are made by girls wanting to celebrate this occasion, and thrown on rooftops for the magpies to use. Additionally star gazing and praying for love and marriage at local temples is also popular on this day.
The traditions for this day contrast with those of Valentine’s Day (which is also celebrated as a Western custom in larger cities), which involve more gift giving between lovers.