The traditional Tanabata festival is a festival of beggars and worship of Qiniangma. On this day, the girls prayed to the weaver girl for skillful spirit and a smooth marriage; Taiwanese folk beliefs worship the "Qiniang Mama" to bless women and children.
Did you know that the original "Tanabata" actually had nothing to do with Valentine's Day? Until 20 or 30 years ago, in Taiwanese society, Qixi was still a folk festival to worship the mother of the bed, the star and the mother of the seventh mother.
In ancient China, the 7th day of the seventh lunar month was a festival for girls, and women would invite each other to perform worship ceremonies to pray for future dexterity and good mates. In Taiwanese folk beliefs, July 7 is the birthday of "Qiniang Mama", who should be warmly treated with oil rice, chicken wine and sugar kueh, praying for the smooth growth of the children in the family.
As for the familiar legend of the meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl Queqiao, it is a variation of the original story "Dong Yong sold his body to bury his father, and his filial piety won the Heavenly Emperor to marry his daughter". In the past two decades, under the influence of Valentine's Day in the West and the promotion of consumer culture, the original worship ceremony of praying to the gods has been transformed into a romantic festival that conveys the heart and couples spend together.
The custom of beggarly in Tanabata
Qixi is certainly the day when the cowherd and the weaver girl meet in the Tianhe, but because it is said that the weaver girl has a pair of skillful hands that are good at female red, this day is also the season when the girls on earth "beg" to the weaver girl.
In the past, the craft of threading needles represented women's productivity and was also associated with love. Therefore, on the day of Qixi Festival, the girls would meet with the sisters in the purdah, burn incense and kneel in the courtyard, and after offering offerings, they would use the moonlight to thread needles and beg, and learn to weaver girls to fetch water and shampoo their hair by the river (the river water of Qixi has the image of the Milky Way), praying that they could weaver like the weaver girl and find a good couple.
To worship the weaver girl, it is necessary to set up incense and burn incense under the moon, prepare melons and fruits that represent many children and grandchildren, flowers that symbolize a beautiful face, as well as rouge white powder and sweets. After the end, the women must throw half of the makeup powder on the roof, and the other half is left to use every day, which is said to preserve youth and beauty forever. Because there is this festival in July, the seventh month of the lunar calendar is also called the Qiaoyue, and the seventh day of July is also called the Qiao Festival.
In different regions, there are various variations of the custom of beggars. "Losing a needle" is throwing a needle on the surface of the water and looking at the shadow of the embroidered needle in the sun to predict one's craft and destiny; The crispy fried sweets used for worship in various places, "Qiaoguo", also have different appearances.
This is a festival for women, and around Tanabata, many vendors gather in the streets to sell begging powder, jewelry and offerings, and women and their best friends go shopping on the streets to enjoy the lively atmosphere on the eve of the festival. According to custom, male guests are not allowed to participate, otherwise it may cause a strange wind commonly known as "Weaver Girl Riot" to disrupt the event.
Who is Qiniang's mother?
In traditional Taiwanese beliefs, one of the highlights of Qixi is the birthday of Qiniang's mother. Qiniang Ma, also known as Qiniang Niangniang and Qixing Lady, is the youngest daughter of the seven fairies born to the queen mother Niangniang, and is sometimes confused with Weaver Nu in legends.
Qiniang Mama is the guardian saint who blesses the smooth growth of children. She specializes in protecting children under the age of 16, so families with young children and pregnant women will set up an altar to pray to the mother of Qiniang to bless the children with healthy growth.
To worship Qiniang's mother, there is a legend that "worship seven bowls". The specific items offered vary from region to region, but generally speaking, sesame oil chicken wine and oil rice for women before and after childbirth, rouge gouache for Qiniang's mother's dressing, and mirror comb sets are placed to thank the hard work of giving birth and protecting the growth of young children.
In addition, two flowers, round flowers and cockroaches, will also be inserted on the table to represent the flower and moon appearance of Qiniang Mama, which is round and has a sunken sugar kueh in the middle to hold women's tears.
Newborn children are taken to the temple to beg the Seven Stars Niangniang to consider "qizi" or "indenture", and wear red threads and iron pieces to symbolize blessing. After that, every year on Qixi and the birthday of the seven-star niangniang, they had to return to the temple to visit the "change of feast", replace the red silk thread or iron plate, and only stop and break away from the protection of the seven-star niangniang at the age of 16, and the custom of "doing 16 years old" for the coming-of-age ceremony in Tainan appeared.
Taiwan's Qiniang mother belief was born in response to the early high infant mortality rate, and children are prone to illness and premature death before the age of 16. Nowadays, medicine is developed, and many places have lost the tradition of worshipping Qiniang Mama and changing feasts regularly. However, the custom of "adopting" righteous children by gods and wearing peace talismans in various places still survives to this day.
July 7 is a day for women
Qixi gave ancient women a short period of time for themselves and their same-sex friends, and also provided an occasion to take care of themselves and dress up to attend, on this day, women concentrated on this day for their own happiness and the consummation of their relationship in front of the incense case of the weaver girl to hope and seek a smooth life.
In order to pray for the future to weave exquisite cloth, the custom of begging for shopping on the street and "throwing needles" is also a great event among the girl's friends in the boudoir.
It is said that if the shadow of the water reflected by the needle is ominous, many people will feel disappointed, depressed and cry, and it also reflects that these women may share a sense of anxiety about their future, perhaps sharing the same anxiety as us in modern times, but also full of imagination and hope when they were young.
In Chinese society, patrilineal blood is more valued, so male gods in Taoism are the majority, and they often dominate the setting and conduct of festivals. The local beliefs in Fujian and Guangdong and Taiwan are exceptions, and the existence of female gods such as the queen mother and mother, the nine-day genu, and the Mazu all strengthen the maternal characteristics of protection and nurturing, which is especially rare in tradition.
The traditional seventh day of the seventh lunar month is not about love, but about women, their dreams, and those they want to protect forever. On this day, they can exclude the interference of others, solemnly treat the god of motherhood, and cherish themselves solemnly.
Nowadays, the meaning of Tanabata and the wishes of girls growing up are different, but what we share with the ancients in modern times is still excitement, joy and expectation, as well as the intention of protecting the important people around us.