Qixi (The Night of Sevens) festival is held in China on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar. According to the Gregorian calendar it is sometime in August. In 2014 the festival is held on the 2nd of August. Qixi is also known under many other names – The Magpie Festival, The Festival to Plead for Skills, The Seventh Sister's Birthday, The Night of Skills.

Like many other festivals this one has a wonderful story connected to it. It is “The story of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl”. Here it goes. Long, long time ago there was young cowherd. His name was Niulang (“cowherd”). Niulang's parents died. He lived with his sister and his elder brother and sister-in-law. They both treated Niulang very bad. They kicked him out of house. All he had was the clothes he wore and an old ox.

The ox was a rather special one. He was the star Taurus who violated laws of the Heavenly Palace in the past. One day Niulang noticed seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake. The ox accompanying Niulang suggested him to steal their clothes. Niulang did so and stayed to see what is going to happen.

When realizing that someone has stolen their clothes. The fairy sisters chose Zhinü (“weaver girl”), which was the youngest and most beautiful, to get back their clothes. Zhinü did return the clothes but because of the fact that Niulang saw her naked she became his wife. Their marriage was a happy one. Zhinü gave birth to two children.

But then one day the Goddess of Heaven (some storytellers say Zhinü's mother) find out that Zhinü, one of the fairy girls, was married to an ordinary mortal. She was so angry because of it. She ordered Zhinü to return to Heaven and continue her duty as weaver of colourful clouds. When Niulang found out that his beloved wife was gone he became so worried.

Suddenly, he heard a voice. It was his cow beginning to talk. The cow suggested him that he kills her and put her skin on him to get to his wife in Heaven. He liked his cow but somehow he killed her and got the skin. Niulang took his two kids and started a journey to Heaven. After some time he reached his destination. But the Goddess of Heaven find out about his arrival.

The Goddess decided to separate them forever. She took out her hairpin and scratched a wide river in the sky. This “river” is what is now known as the Milky Way. Niulang is seen as the star Altair and his wife Zhinü is the star Vega. Zhinü is forced to forever weave on one side or the river and only from a distance see her husband Niulang and their two children. As stars their two children are stars β and γ Aquilae or in Chinese Hè Gu 1 and Hè Gu 3).

Still for one night a year they are together. It is possible because of magpies who out of pity once a year fly to heaven and build Que Qiao or “bridge of magpies” between them. It is believed that rain in the night of Qixi is made of tears of Niulang and Zhinü who are crying because of their sad destiny.

In one version of the story it is the Goddess of Heaven who touched by their strong love enables them to meet on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. There is also a belief among the Chinese that in the night of the two stars Altair and Vega (Niulang and Zhinü) actually unite on the same side of Milky Way.

Numerous traditions are held on the Qixi festival. Young girls compete in different kind of folk art like for example melon carving. They also make a wish for a good husband.

On the Qixi people make a garland like ornament and the single or newly married women in the household make an offering to Niulang and Zhinü. The offering includes fruit, flowers, tea and some powder makeup. After the ceremony half of the powder is thrown on the roof and the other half is divided among the young women who made the offering. By the doing so the women get a chance to become beautiful as Zhinü.

Also on the Qixi young girls make an interesting test that decides about their embroidery skills. How is it done? Well, a girl throws a sewing needle in a bowl full of water. If the needle keeps floating and does not sink the girl is good in embroidery.

Wonton dumpling

The Qixi includes consuming various delicious food. Everything differs from region to region. Still, the most common food eaten on this festival are dumplings, noodles, deep-fried twisted dough sticks and wontons. The most popular of them is the Qiaoguo (Fried Thin Paste).