OMG it’s Chinese Valentine’s Day!

Most things in China are the same, but different. Therefore, they have the equivalent of Valentines Day, but it doesn’t come around on February 14th like its Western counterpart. Known as the Qixi Festival, it occurs instead on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, which makes it especially tricky to remember as the date keeps changing. This year it falls on August 25th, while in 2019 it fell on August 7th.

This shouldn’t be confused with either ‘Single’s Day’ on November 11th (11/11, geddit?) May 20th (an ‘unofficial’ Valentine’s Day known as 520 because the numbers sound like ‘I love you’ in Mandarin) which are both comparatively new festivals. The Chinese are crazy about festivals. An increasing number are celebrating February 14th, too. Personally, I feel most of these romantic festivals are spearheaded by Chinese girls, who do like to be spoiled.

Qixi, originally known as Qiqiao Festival, originated from the Han Dynasty. There are many variations, but the general tale tale is a love story between Zhinü a weaver girl,  and Niulang, the cowherd. Their love was forbidden, so they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River (symbolizing the Milky Way). Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge allowing the lovers to reunite the for one day. A more thorough telling can be found here

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What’s up with 520?

Today is May 20th.

520.

You may wonder what the significance of this is. Well, unless you are Chinese, probably very little. But some numbers take on added significance in China. Certain digits, or combinations of digits, are steeped in history, while others have been hijacked and utilised by the time-conscious and trendy younger generation who can’t even be bothered to type words into their phones any more.

A good example of this is the way some people sign off with 88, instead of saying bye bye, because the pronunciation of 8 in Chinese (ba) sounds almost identical. So 88 = ba ba = bye bye.

Get it?

Similarly, 520 has become an abbreviation for ‘I love you,’ because the pronunciation in Mandarin of the three numbers (wu er ling) sounds a lot like the words for ‘I love you’ (wo ai ni).

These days, saying 520 is how the cool kids express their love for each other, and is a lot quicker and easier than spelling it out. In time, 520 became linked to the date, May 20th which in turn morphed into a kind of unofficial Chinese Valentine’s Day.

So… happy 520!

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