Qixi Festival: what is it and how is it celebrated?

Zorica Lončar

The Qixi Festival is a traditional celebration in Chinese culture, held annually in the summertime. It’s known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

But what actually happens during Qixi, and what are the origins of the festival? Read on to find out, as we’ve put together a handy guide to the Qixi Festival covering everything you need to know. So, if you’re travelling in China or another country that celebrates it, you’ll know exactly what to expect.

And remember that if you need a convenient, low-cost way to spend during your trip to China, the Wise card is the perfect thing to have in your travel wallet.

What is the Qixi Festival?

Also known as Double Seventh Festival or Qiqiao Festival, the Qixi Festival is an annual celebration in Chinese culture.

It’s often referred to as ‘Chinese Valentine’s Day’, as its origins involve a romantic legend about star-crossed lovers.

Here’s how the legend goes. Oxherd Niulang marries a fairy, Zhinü, with the help of his ox (a demoted cattle god). It was love at first sight between the two, and they even gave birth to two children.

But angry that her daughter had married a mere mortal, Zhinü's powerful goddess mother returns her to heaven. She separated the lovers with a river of stars known as the Milky Way. Niulang pursues his lost love, using the ox’s hide, but cannot reach her due to the river of stars between them.

However, the magpies on land take pity on the pair and form a bride across the river so that they can reunite. This happens only once a year, on Qixi day.¹

History of the Qixi Festival

The Qixi Festival is believed to be over 2,000 years old, celebrated since the Han Dynasty of 206 BC to 220 AD.¹

Some of the traditional customs are no longer practised, although you may still encounter them in rural areas during the festival.

How is the Qixi Festival celebrated?¹

Today, Qixi has become quite commercialised and is usually celebrated in a similar way to Valentine’s Day. People give flowers, chocolates and other gifts to their sweethearts, and go out on romantic dates to mark the occasion.

However, traditional Qixi celebrations are quite different. Women would dress up in traditional Hanfu clothing, consisting of long flowing robes with loose sleeves and a belt at the waist. They’d spend the day preparing fruits, tea and flowers as an offering to Zhinü, who they’d pray to for wisdom, a good husband and a happy life.

Young women would also show skills, such as carving exotic flowers or animals on a melon skin, or threading a needle at speed under moonlight.

Food is also a part of Qixi Festival traditions, where people would make and eat Qiaoguo or ‘skill fruit’. This is fried sweet pastry, the eating of which is believed to help the couple reunite on the magpie bridge.

When is the Qixi Festival held?

The Qixi Festival is held on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This usually means it falls in August, so the next dates will be:¹

  • 22nd August 2023
  • 10th August 2024
  • 29th August 2025.

Where to see Qixi celebrations

Qixi is celebrated in many places where there is a large Chinese population. This of course includes China, as well as Taiwan, Singapore and some other parts of Asia.

If you’re planning a trip to any of these countries in August, you may be lucky enough to see Qixi Festival celebrations taking place in person.

After reading this, you should be all clued up on the Qixi Festival and its 2000-year-old history borne out of a romantic Chinese legend. We’ve looked at the story behind the festival, and how Qixi is celebrated traditionally and in the present day. Plus, the next Qixi dates and which countries it’s celebrated in - so you can plan a trip to see it for yourself.

Remember that if you’re travelling to China, Singapore, Taiwan or any other destination worldwide, the Wise card is one of the most cost-effective ways to spend.

Pop it in your travel wallet and you can spend in the local currency wherever you are. This contactless card automatically converts your money at the mid-market exchange rate, for just a tiny conversion fee.

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

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Sources used:

  1. China Highlights - Double Seventh Festival

Sources last checked on date: 03-Apr-2023

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