Double Seventh Festival
Date: the seventh day of the seventh lunar month
The seventh day of the seventh lunar month is the Double Seventh Festival in China. The folklore goes that it is the day when Herd-boy and Weaving-girl reunite with each other. The beautiful love story about the origin of this festival is still popular today.
It is said that a long time ago, a clever and honest man named Niu Lang(Herd-boy) was living in the Niu village at the west of Nanyang city. Niu Lang's parents died when he was very young and he had to live with his brother and sister-in-law. The latter was very cruel and mean to Niu and always forced him to do some hard work. Finally she even drove Niu out of her family. Poor Niu only had an old cow with him. One day the old cow suddenly told Niu, "Tomorrow is the seventh day of the seventh lunar month; the seven daughters of Yuhuang Dadi will come to earth and have a bathe. The youngest one that named Zhi Nv (Weaving-girl) is the cleverest. Hide her clothes and she will be your wife." Niu Lang was aroused by what the cow had said and decided to have a try.
When it came to that day, Niu Lang hided himself in the reed by the river beforehand. Soon seven fairies descended from the heaven. They took off their clothes and jumped into the river. Right then Niu Lang bounced up from the reed, grabbed Zhi Nv's clothes and dashed backwards immediately. This had terrified the seven fairies and the six of them flew to the heaven with their clothes on, leaving only the youngest Zhi Nv startled in the river. Niu Lang stumbled that he would return the clothes as lang as she promised to marry him. Zhi Nv found that Niu Lang was the kind of man that she loved, so she nodded bashfully. After the marriage Herd-boy and Weaving-girl lead a happy life and they loved each other very much. Later they gave birth to a son and a daughter. How perfect the life was! How ever, the Queen Mother of the Western Heavens was irritated by their behavior and forced Zhi Nv to return to the heaven.
Niu Lang put on his cowhide shoes and brought his kids with him to chase Zhi Nv back. When it came to the edge of success, the Queen Mother of the Western heavens pulled out a hairpin from her hair. With just one wave of the hairpin, she brought about a billowing river, which separated the two lovers at each bank. They could do nothing but weep with each other. Fortunately, the magpies were moved by their sincere love. That's said to be the origin of the Milky Way, Altair and Vega. Hundreds of thousands of them flew there and they formed a magpie bridge so that Herd-boy and Weaving-girl can get together again on the bridge. Not being able to make any change to this, the Queen Mother of the Western Heavens had to permit them to reunite with each oter every seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
From then on, whenever it comes to that day, young girls will dress themselves in new clothes and tried to find the Herd-boy and the Weaving-girl stars in the sky at night, expecting to see their yearly reunion and praying to gods that they can be as intelligent and talented as Zhi Nv and can have a happy marriage. That's how the Praying-for-Cleverness Ceremony Originated.
The Praying-for-Cleverness Ceremony is a very exciting day in the Chinese countryside. Young girls wear new clthes, worship the two stars and "pray to Zhi Nv for cleverness." There are many kinds of prays, the most common one of which is the pray for the talent of threading needles. Young women bring out colorful threads and seven needles. The girl who can pull a thread through these needles will be regarded as "talented lady."
The Double Seventh Festival is considered as the Chinese Valentine's Day. The story that Herd-boy and Weaving-girl reunited on the Magpie Bridge casts a romantic light on this festival. It is said that you can even hear the sweet whispers between these two lovers if you sit under the grape vine on that day.