I know what you're thinking, this guy must be out of his mind, Valentine's Day was six months ago! Hey, I'm not the brightest, but of course I know that!
Western Valentine's Day qíngrénjiē(情人節) is celebrated on February 14th every year, but there is also a Chinese equivalent to Valentine's Day which was August 13th this year.
The dates which Chinese festivals fall on can be very confusing, because they are determined by the traditional lunar calendar.
So, aside from the difference in date between Chinese Valentine's Day and Western Valentine's Day, the origins are also quite different. The origins of Chinese Valentine's Day qīxī(七夕) lie in ancient Chinese Mythology. The story of The Weaver girl and the Cowherd is a tragic story of two lovers who were not allowed to be together.
(An illustration of Zhīnǚ(織女) and Niúláng(牛郎) crossing the bridge of magpies to meet each other from http://tupian.baike.com)
While there is more than one version of the tale (I won't go into too many specifics, but you can find more details on Wikipedia),They all agree that a weaver girl Zhīnǚ(織女) and a cowherd Niúláng(牛郎) met and fell deeply in love with one another, married and had children. But they were separated, each stuck on one side of the river (represented by the Milky Way) unable to reach the other (the reason differs from version to version) and consequently only allowed to meet each other for one night each year, the seventh night of the seventh moon(hence the name for the festival is qīxī(七夕) or the seventh night of the seventh lunar month).
(A picture of the bridge that allows the two lovers to meet once per year from http://skyonforest.blogspot.tw)
Qīxī(七夕) is celebrated much the same as Valentine's Day is in the West. It is a time when lovers give each other gifts and spend time together.
A popular traditional belief is that it must rain on Qīxī(七夕). My fiancé and I spent the evening at her parents house, and at one point it started to rain quite heavily. My future mother-in-law looked up from her book and said that it was Zhīnǚ(織女) crying. I hope that they were tears of joy at her being reunited with Niúláng(牛郎)!
Chinese phrases of the day:
qíngrénjiē(情人節)= Valentine's Day
qīxī(七夕)= Chinese Valentine's Day, or the seventh night of the seventh lunar month
Zhīnǚ(織女)= Weaver girl