On the evening of the seventh day of the seventh month on the Chinese lunar calendar, don't forget to look carefully at the summer sky. You'll find the Cowherd (a bright star in the constellation Aquila, west of the Milky Way) and the Weaving Maid (the star Vega, east of the Milky Way) appear closer together than at any other time of the year. Chinese believe the stars are lovers who are permitted to meet by the queen of Heaven once a year. That day falls on the double seventh (Qixi in Chinese), which is China's own Valentine's Day.
Most Chinese remember being told a romantic tragedy when they were children on the double seventh. In the legend, the cowherd and the Weaving Maid will meet on a bridge of magpies across the Milky Way once a year. Chinese grannies will remind children that they would not be able to see any magpies on that evening because all the magpies have left to form a bridge in the heavens with their wings.
The double seventh is the only Chinese festival devoted to love in the Lunar calendar.
In the old days of China, needlework was necessary as part of a girl's dowry. Since the Weaving Maid is also an excellent seamstress, on the double seventh in ancient China, girls would hold weaving and needlework competitions to see who had the best hands and the brightest mind, both prerequisites for making a good wife and mother at that time.
The methods of keeping the skin fair and glowing by using blossoms have never been a secret to Chinese girls. On the double seventh, girls would put blossoms into a copper basin of water. The water, which would absorbe the essence of the blossoms, was said to be good to girls' skin when they washed their face.
3. The Maid "Shrine"
Girls would also put up colorful "shrines" made of paper, fresh fruit, flowers, and incense as a tribute to the Weaving Maid and the cowherd. In some parts of Shandong Province (in East China), young women offered fruit and pastries to pray for a bright mind. If spiders were seen weaving webs on sacrificial objects, it was believed the Weaving Maid was giving a positive reply to the prayers.
4. Making Offerings
So many things -- of joy and tears, praise and lament, hope and yearning -- fall on the double seventh. In some areas in China, seven close girlfriends would gather to make dumplings. They put into three separate dumplings a needle, a copper coin, and a red date, which represented perfect needlework skills, good fortune, and an early marriage. But the festival celebrations were not confined to girls. It proved to be a day for all the people, young and old, men and women, to make offerings. It's said if an offering were made for three straight years, the offering, or rather the wish, would come true.