Qi Qiao Jie, or the seventh eve, is often referred to as Chinese Valentine's Day. While the annual gift-giving commonly associated with St. Valentine's Day doesn't take place, there are several charming customs associated with this romantic day.
History of Chinese Valentine's Day
There are two legends surrounding the origins of Chinese Valentine's Day. Both involve the position of the stars on the seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese lunar calendar.
According to the first legend, the seven daughters of the Goddess of Heaven caught the eye of a Cowherd during one of their visits to earth. The daughters were bathing in a river and the Cowherd, Niu Lang, decided to have a bit of fun by running off with their clothing. It fell upon the prettiest daughter (who happened to be the seventh born), to ask him to return their clothes.
Of course, since Niu Lang had seen the daughter, Zhi Nu, naked, they had to be married. The couple lived happily for several years. Eventually, however, the Goddess of Heaven became fed up with her daughter's absence, and ordered her to return to heaven. However, the mother took pity on the couple and allowed them to be reunited once a year. Legend has it that on the seventh night of the seventh moon, magpies form a bridge with their wings for Zhi Nu to cross to meet her husband.
In the second story, Niu Lang and Zhi Nu were fairies living on opposite sides of the Milky Way. Feeling sorry for the two lonely sprites, the Jade Emperor of Heaven actively tried to bring them together. Unfortunately, he succeeded too well—Niu Lang and Zhi Nu became so enraptured with each other that they neglected their work. Annoyed, the Jade Emperor decreed that from that point on, the couple could only meet once a year—on the seventh night of the seventh moon.
Today, stargazers celebrate Qi Qiao Jie by gazing up at the star Vega, east of the Milky Way which represents Zhi Nu, and at the constellation Aquila, on the west side of the Milky Way, where Niu Lang waits for his lover to join him.
Common names for the festival are the Seven Sisters Festival or the Festival of the Double Sevens.
Crafting a Chinese Valentine's Day Menu
If you want to prepare a menu using some ingredients often found in Chinese dishes, you'll find several menu ideas and recipes below.
Quick and Easy
- Gyoza with dipping sauce (you can purchase frozen potstickers ahead of time and just prepare the sauce).
- Shrimp Lo Mein With Three Vegetables
- Fresh fruit in season
Cantonese for Lovers
A Few More Recipe Ideas
Nothing too heavy, and keep the garlic down!
More Dessert Ideas
Chocolate Spring Rolls, anyone? You can try making these at home by using cooking chocolate as the filling. Use a piping bag to pipe the chocolate to the proper length for the spring roll. Then refrigerate and roll into the spring roll wrapper. The spring rolls can then be frozen until required and deep-fried in the normal manner. For a couli, try marmalade or pureed mango, or perhaps some berries in season topped with whipped cream or ice cream.