USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘valentine’s day’
Holidays
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Chinese Valentine’s Day in Taiwan

Background

The informant said that she learned Taiwanese traditions from her grandparents, or it was talked about at her school (there would be stories in their textbooks about them). She emphasized that it is very important to her that she learns these traditions and keeps them up, even though some of them conflict with her own religious beliefs, because they are part of her cultural heritage. She said that it makes her sad when she sees Taiwanese-Americans who do not know or practice any Taiwanese traditions, because they are missing out on something that is a part of who they are and helps to define them.

Context

The informant told this story to a group of female friends, while out to dinner one night. She had a smile on her face the whole time and the audience reacted with coos and aww’s, eating up the romantic parts of the story.

Text

During July, we have our Chinese Valentine’s Day. So, Chinese Valentine’s Day, it’s — it’s really cute. It’s more of a.. It’s more of a Taiwanese and Chinese tradition. So, the story is that there’s these two…um… there’s this one couple. One of– the female– is one of.. She’s a goddess. The male is just a normal peasant. And one day, when the goddess comes down to earth and, uh, take a shower at one of the.. um.. fountains and stuff. This peasant saw her and fall in love with her. And, uh, in order to attract her, he stole away her clothes. So, she has to go after the peasant and she– they fall in love. But, then you can never — a goddess cannot fall in love with a human. So.. um.. they can’t be together. Uh, the main gods, they separate the couple. So, um, during July, the goddess just.. Um.. oh, wait, wait. Oh! The gods do pity them, so they decided that they only meet once in a year, which is Chinese Valentine’s. So, on Chinese Valentine’s, there will be birds, there will be, um, celestial creatures that will build a bridge between heaven and Earth, so they can walk onto the bridge and meet each other at the middle of the bridge. So, that is Chinese Valentine’s.

Thoughts

I thought it was interesting that the informant was talking about a holiday that she participated in her home country, but she discussed it in a narrative form. It seemed that the story behind Chinese Valentine’s Day was more significant or interesting to her than the holiday itself. This might have something to do with tendency for humans to relate more to something when it’s told as a narrative. The reason she discussed this holiday using a narrative might also be because of the audience. She was talking to a group of her girl friends, who she probably  thought were more interested in hearing a compelling love story than hearing about Taiwanese traditional holidays.  

Childhood
Holidays

Valentines Day

While she was at school, my informant partook in a Valentine’s Day activity wherein each child in the class makes Valentine’s cards for everyone, and then makes a box and decorates the box.  Children then go around and put their cards in everyone else’s box.  She said that she was not very good at arts and crafts as a young child and so she thought her box was terrible and plain compared to everyone else’s.  According to my informant, the other children’s boxes had dancers and straws and ballerinas and other fancy figures on the side of the box, and she felt very embarrassed about the state of her box.  Later in life, she said she realized that the other children had fancy boxes because their parent’s helped to make them.

When I was in elementary school, we too participated in the ritual of exchanging Valentine’s day cards.  We made our own box, but we usually just went out and bought a set of Valentine’s day cards at the store, which came in packs of 16 or 20.  Also it was tradition to tape a small portion of candy onto your Valentine’s cards.  Cards were given to every student regardless of the gender of the giver or the recipient.  For us, Valentine’s day was less about the making of boxes and more about getting free candy.

Festival
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Festival/Holiday – Chinese

Chinese Valentine’s Day

The 7th daughter of the Emperor of Heaven and a cowherd fell in love; the emperor was enraged that his goddess daughter fell for a lowly human. As a result, he separated the two lovers and were only given one day a year to meet—the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. The two lovers’ story actually begins with an ox that the cowherd was tending to. The ox was actually a god who was banished from the heavens after he committed certain crimes. The ox led the cowherd to a brook, where the emperor’s seven daughters were bathing. The cowherd fell in love with the youngest, and to keep her from returning to heaven, he stole her clothes. Without her magical clothing, she could not return to heaven with her sisters. The cowherd told the goddess that he would not return her clothes unless she agreed to be with him; because he was handsome, she agreed and fell in love with him. A few years later, the emperor demanded that his daughter be found and returned to her home in heaven; after he found her, he put her on a star so that she could not escape again. The cranes who saw all of this happening felt sorry for the two lovers, so they decided to help the goddess and the cowherd. On the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, millions of cranes gathered to form a bridge for the two to be together again, even if it was just for one day.

I was told this story by my Chinese teacher when it was asked if Chinese people celebrate Valentine’s Day. She said that Valentine’s Day, specifically February 14th, is not normally celebrated by more traditional Chinese immigrants. Rather, spouses or couples will celebrate their love for one another on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. Before she told us this story, my teacher explained that Chinese people are more shy and hesitant about revealing information about their personal relationships. In addition, Chinese parents are also stricter about dating when it comes to their own children. Chinese parents tend to analyze their child’s partner; this relates to the story because the goddess’ father would not allow her to be with a mere mortal. He even went so far as to break them apart and break his daughter’s heart because he felt so strongly about the relationship.
My teacher also told us some legends that are related to this story. One legend that exists is about the weather; it is said that rain is especially frequent around Chinese Valentine’s Day. Chinese people claim that this is because the goddess and the cowherd are shedding tears because they have to separate after only a few hours together. Another legend that exists about Chinese Valentine’s Day includes the cranes that gather each year to help bring the goddess and the cowherd back together. It is said that it is very rare to see a crane on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month in Asia. This is because all of them are gathering together in the Milky Way to build a bridge for the cowherd. Another legend that is told to reiterate the story is the fact that cranes have much fewer feathers on their heads than they do anywhere else. Not only this, but it is said that the feathers are especially few after Valentine’s Day in China.

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