Why a Google Doodle is celebrating the the Qixi Festival today, and the meaning behind it

by 24britishtvAug. 4, 2022, noon 14
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Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the Qixi Festival, a traditional holiday marked in Taiwan, Singapore and other parts of Asia.

The festival celebrates the annual meeting of Zhinü and Niulang – the weaver girl and the cowherd – in Chinese mythology.

The stamped cloth doodle depicts their reconnaissance in a red silhouette, surrounded by swirling clouds and magpies.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Qixi Festival and the story behind it.

What is the Qixi Festival?

The Qixi Festival bears a lot of similarities with Valentine’s Day, and indeed is sometimes referred to as Chinese Valentine’s Day.

It is observed on the seventh day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar, which means it either falls in the last week of July or first three weeks of August.

Due to its date, the festival is also known as the Double Seventh Festival, the Night of the Sevens.

This year it is being celebrated on Thursday 4 August.

The Qixi Festival centres around the tale of The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, which is born from the ancient Chinese practice of astrology.

In this story, Niulang, the cowherd, is represented by the star Altair, the brightest star in the constellation of Aquila. Zhinü, the weaver girl, is represented by Vega, the brightest star in the constellation of Vega.

The ancient Chinese noticed that these two stars met in the sky on the double seventh. The tale goes that Niulang and Zhinü, who was a fairy, fell in love, but their love was forbidden by the queen mother of the heavens.

The queen mother forced them to separate, creating the heavenly river, which is symbolised by the Milky Way, to keep them apart.

The couple’s sorrow was felt throughout the universe, and moved by the overwhelming despair of their separation, the queen allowed them to meet once a year on the double seventh on a bridge of magpies flying over the river. For this reason, the Qixi Festival is also sometimes known as the Magpie Festival.

How is it celebrated?

Older traditions used to include demonstrations of craft skills, worship services devoted to Zhinü and flower-hanging ceremonies honouring oxen.

However, modern traditions are more akin to Valentine’s Day, with people exchanging roses, sweets and chocolates with their love interest.

People look up at the sky to seek out Altair and Vega, while Deneb, a third star, forms a symbolic bridge between the two.

The festival also holds importance for newlyweds. Traditionally, they would worship Zhinü and Niulang for the last time and bid farewell to them. This celebration stood as a symbol for a happy marriage and showed that the married woman was treasured by her new family.

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