China's Double Seventh festival was traditionally a festival for young women. Today it still celebrates femininity and domestic arts. The festival celebrates the romance of two legendary lovers from ancient times.
It takes place on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, and usually falls in August of the Gregorian calendar. This festival will take place on 9 August, 2016. It is not a public holiday in China.
In rural areas, traditional celebrations may include prayer, demonstrating domestic skills, and other ancient customs. In China's urban centres, the festival is often observed simply as a day of romance.
In ancient times, competitions on this day were a common forum for young women to demonstrate their skill at domestic tasks, such as cooking, embroidery and melon carving.
An offering to the legendary couple (by newly married women) of fruit, flowers, tea, and cosmetic powder, was often placed outside the home.
This festival was traditionally a time for young women to pray for success in marriage, domestic skills such as cooking or needlework, or the bearing of children.
Couples in urban centres often celebrate by exchanging tokens of love or going out for a meal.
This festival dates back over 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). It coincides with the bright stars of late Summer on opposite sides of the Milky Way.
According to legend, these stars represent two lovers, Zhī nǚ (织女), a weaver maid from Heaven, and Niúláng (牛郎), a simple cowherd, who were parted by a celestial river.
According to legend, Zhī nǚ fell in love with Niúláng and married him in secret and starting a family on earth. One day, their marriage was discovered by the God of Heaven, who demanded that Zhī nǚ return to her celestial home.
When Niú láng tried to follow his wife, her mother used a hairpin to create a river that would part the lovers for eternity. The parted lovers can be seen in late Summer as two stars in the sky on opposite sides of the Milky Way.
On the seventh day of the seventh lunar month each year, it is said that the mother allowed a reunion. It is this reunion that is celebrated on the Double Seventh festival.