This week, many people around the world celebrated Valentine’s Day. Those of you in China are in luck– China instead has three different days for lovers and single people (no more Singles Awareness Day folks!).
Here’s a bit of the lowdown on what it means to celebrate love or singlehood in China. If you get a chance, check out our blog post on dating in China.
七夕节- Qixi Festival
Other names: Double Seventh Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day, Magpie Festival, Night of the Sevens, Tanabata (Japan), Chilseok (Korea)
Celebrated on: August 17th this year (7th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar)
Rooted heavily in Chinese mythology, this holiday is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. Based on the story of the two lovers, Zhinü and Niulang (otherwise known as the weaver maid and the cowherd, respectively), Chinese people partake in sharing the love of these two characters with their own special partners.
In the story of The Cowherd and the Weaver Maiden (one of Four Great Folktales of China), Niulang falls in love with a beautiful maiden named Zhinü, the seventh daughter of the Goddess of Heaven who has a bit of a rebellious streak in her. After falling in love, getting married, and having two children, Heaven turns its back on this union; it is unacceptable for a divine being to marry a mere mortal. Zhinü is taken back to Heaven to forever work the cloud-making loon, separating her from her lover. Niulang is devastated, and in his misery an ox tells him to kill it and hide beneath its hide to fly to heaven and be reunited with his wife. However, his plan is foiled as he crosses into Heaven beneath the ox hide with their two children and the Goddess creates a rift in the sky between Niulang and Zhinü, forever separating the two. But once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month, the magpies form a bridge allowing the two lovers to meet and embrace for a single night.
How it’s celebrated:
On this day, people celebrate love with poetry, songs, and special gifts to the ones that they love. Another great love story to check out is called The Butterfly Lovers (in Chinese, 梁山伯與祝英台), another of the Four Great Folktales of China.
People will buy gifts for their loved ones (such as chocolate and flowers), women will pray to Zhinü and weave images hoping to bring luck and love, and people will share the story of the lovers or one of the many other famous love stories in China (some being their own love story).
光棍节- Singles’ Day
Other names: Single Sticks Day, Single Dog Day, Bachelor’s Day
Celebrated on: November 11th every year
Four male students in 1993 studying at Nanjing University wanted to change the monotonous life style that is being single in China. They decided that November 11th would be the day they would celebrate singlehood. In China, where being single is sometimes seen as a disadvantage or in many cases looked down upon, this was a way that people could celebrate and honor what it means to be single.
How it’s celebrated:
Ironically, on this holiday many people celebrate it with weddings or by going on blind dates. Kind of takes away the point of celebrating singlehood, huh? Others embrace their singleness and celebrate themselves by purchasing gifts through Taobao, an online shopping giant, on what is the biggest sale day of the year (think Canadian/UK Boxing Day and the American Black Friday type of sales).
In western culture, Valentine’s Day, sometimes called S.A.D. or Singles Awareness Day, is a day where some single individuals take on a self-deprecating attitude as the red and pink season rolls in. However, in China Singles’ Day helps people to embrace the concept of being single and many universities even provide single students with special events or activities.
While first celebrated primarily by male individuals (hence the Bachelor’s Day reference), this day has come to be inclusive for all of those who are single.
Celebrated on: May 20th
There really isn’t an origin story to this one. The reason why this holiday came about is because the Chinese characters for 520 (wŭ èr líng) sounds like the Chinese words for “I love you” (wŏ ài nĭ).
How it’s celebrated:
Celebrated heavily by the younger generations in China, it’s celebrated the exact same way as Valentine’s Day in the western world. On this day many people will apply for a marriage license, buy roses and chocolate, give small presents, or take their significant other out to supper or a special meal.
No matter whether you are single or dating, close by or a distance away, there is a day for you to celebrate your love… or yourself. So take some time today, this week, or on one of these holidays and celebrate the most important loves in your life, even if it’s just self-appreciation!