February 3, 2016
The Double Seventh Festival in China is the equivalent of St. Valentine’s Day in the Western world and dates back over 2,000 years. Instead of taking place in February, however, the festival is celebrated on the seventh day of the seven month of the Lunar calendar which falls on 23rd August this year.
The festival dates back to the sad legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Niu. Niu Lang was a poor cattle farmer that one day came across an old man – a supernatural being no less – who guided him to a sick ox in heaven that needed to be cured. As a reward for curing the ox, the old man introduced him to Zhi Niu, an angelic fairy. The pair fell in love, got married and started a new life on earth with their two children, Niu Lang as a cattle farmer and Zhi Niu as a weaver.
When the goddess of heaven heard of Zhi Niu marrying a mortal, she decided to banish the fairy back to heaven, dividing the couple forever. Niu Lang tried to follow after her on the ox he had cured, but just moments before meeting his true love again, the goddess created a river between them. The couple were so desperate to be together that the goddess became moved of their love and eventually accepted a compromise: the two could meet one day a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month.
In rural Chinese areas nowadays girls pray to Zhi Niu to learn weaving techniques and to find a lover. These rituals are no longer popular in the large cities where young people simply just celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, but everyone in China still knows about the legend of the two lovers and they continue to pass the story down through their generations.
In Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 14th February – just like in the Western world. In Japan and South Korea women spoil their special men with chocolate. In contrast to the European celebrations, however, chocolate is presented to their husbands, friends, and even colleagues. In return, the women receive gifts from their special men on the so called “White Day” on 14th March, one month later. The name signifies purity, and the colour became a popular one for the boxed chocolate gifts that are given on that day.
In South Korea, the tradition has been taken one step further and “Black Day” is now celebrated on 14th April where single people meet their fellow single friends in a restaurant and eat white Korean noodles with black bean sauce, referred to as “black noodles”. This tradition became a celebration of single life.
So what’s your favourite Valentine’s tradition and how do you plan on celebrating it?
Irene Capanna, Translation Coordinator, Verboo