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Chinese Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day is a popular festival for lovers in western countries.On this day, sweethearts buy cards, candy, flowers and romantic dinners to prove their devotion to the one they adore. People fallen in love always dream each day to be Valentine's Day. While it has been August now, for those sweethearts who are living and working in western countries, the next Valentine's Day will be about six months later. What a pity!

It is a luck that the Chinese Valentine's Day is coming in several days. It falls on the 7th of August this year. In Chinese lunar calendar, it is on July 7, thus it has another name—Seventh Eve. Have you planned to spend a Valentine's Day in China with your sweetheart in these days? It must be a quite different one because there are totally different customs and traditions for this day. The first one is that on Seventh Eve people always release lotus lanterns on water. As darkness falls, surfaces of rivers, lakes, and ponds are dotted with the lanterns that young men and women have released. The lanterns move slowly on the water, carrying with them the longings of young men and women for a perfect marriage. Under these circumstances, the sparkling stars in the sky, the lotus lanterns in the water, and the lovers in the moonlight or in the light of the lanterns together form the most beautiful and romantic scene on earth!

Another one is to sit in the courtyard on Seventh Eve to watch the Cowherd (the Altair) and Weaver Girl (the Vega) stars. It has become a fixed custom in the Chinese culture. On a clear late summer night, the two stars can be seen facing each other across the broad Milky Way. On this night, girls will face the bright moon and pray to heaven for a lover that can satisfy their heart's desire.

Why do people watch the Cowherd and Weaver Girl stars on the evening of the Valentine's Day? That is because the two very bright stars are named on the basis of a fairy tale—the love story of Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. It was said that the Weaver Girl was the 7th daughter of the Jade Emperor. One day while visiting the earth and bathing together with her sisters in a river, she was seen by the Cowherd, a young farmer who had once rescued a holy cow. The holy cow persuaded the Cowherd to take away the clothes of the Weaver Girl. In the process of searching for her clothes, the Weaver Girl fell in love with the Cowherd and they got married very soon. The Cowherd worked in the fields while the Weaver Girl weaved at home, and they lived a happy life. However, the Weaver Girl's absence was discovered by her mother, Wang Mu, the Jade Emperor's wife, and she was enraged and took the Weaver Girl to fly back to heaven. The Cowherd flew after them with the help of the holy cow. Just as he was about to catch up with them, Queen Mother of Heaven, removed her silver hairpin and drew a line with it
behind her. Immediately, a huge river appeared between the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. This river is then called "the Silver River", known in the West as the Milky Way. As a result, the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl were ruthlessly separated. Because of missing the Cowherd who was kept at the other side of the Milky Way, the Weaver Girl wept every day. Wang Mu took pity on the couple and she thus allowed them to meet once a year. Their love moved magpies. On the seventh eve of July in each lunar year, all the magpies would flock together to build a bridge over the Silver River so that the couple were able to meet each other on the bridge. Later, the poor couple each became a star. The Cowherd is Altair and the Weaver Girl is Vega.

In ancient times, Seventh Eve was a festival for young girls who would put on best clothes to celebrate the annual meeting of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. They would also kowtow before offerings in the courtyard to the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd and pray for ingenuity. Chinese people nowadays no longer hold such activities for the day has turned to be a day for sweethearts. However, the day doesn't lose its origin but is endowed with new meaning in modern social atmosphere. The annual celebration of the day not only continuously reminds Chinese people of the traditional custom and strengthens the love for the Chinese culture but also gives chances to people to show their love. Therefore, the day has become very popular among young people.

"The Cowherd and Weaver" is an extremely influential fairy tale in Chinese culture. For those foreigners who are interested in Chinese culture should have known the tale but may not have a chance to celebrate the day by them in Chinese way. Therefore, foreigners had better try to celebrate this Chinese Valentine's Day coming on August 7 this year, the previous day before the Beijing Olympics Games. It must be pretty exciting to watch Olympic matches after the day you have celebrated a very romantic Chinese Valentine's Day with your sweetheart! It is memorable, too. However, if you stay in China to have a deep comprehension of Chinese Valentine's Day, it is necessary to learn some Chinese.

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