Double Seventh Day Festival Posted by on Aug 16, 2021 in Culture, Events

Photo by Adrian RA on Unsplash

Looking at the lunar calendar, July 7th falls on Saturday, August 14th in the Gregorian calendar. In Vietnam, this date is called Thất Tịch, which literally means evening of sevens. It is known as the “Asian Valentine Day”. The origin of Lễ Thất Tịch (Double Sevens Festival) is from China, the Qixi festival. Similarly, the Japanese have the Tanabata festival, and the Koreans have the Chilseok festival.

Lễ Thất Tịch (Double Sevens Festival) is associated with the fairy tale of Ngưu Lang (the cowherd) and Chức Nữ (the weaver fairy) in mythology. Chức Nữ was the 7th youngest daughter of Ngọc Hoàng (the Jade Emperor from heaven). She went down to earth with her siblings for a swim. Ngưu Lang, the cowherd fell in love with her at first sight. His cow told him she would stay if he made her fail to return to heaven before the morning came. He did this by hiding her clothes. Unable to return to heaven with her siblings, and touched by the cowherd’s love, she stayed with him and they had two children together. Ngọc Hoàng eventually found out and made her return to heaven. The cowherd chased after her and nearly caught up to her, but they were separated by sông Ngân Hà (the Silver river), made by Vương Mẫu (the Queen Mother).

Moved by their love, the magpies built a bridge with their bodies over the river for them to meet, and Vương Mẫu allowed them to see each other once a year in the evening on the seventh of July (lunar calendar) on cầu Ô Thước (the Magpie Bridge). Sông Ngân Hà is dải Ngân Hà (the Milky Way).

The Milky Way – Photo by Ken Cheung from Pexels

The Thất Tịch’s date is also known as the ông Ngâu bà Ngâu’s day (Mr. Ngâu & Mrs Ngâu’s day). In Vietnam, it’s often raining at that time of year. When it rains for a long time but not hard, it’s called mưa Ngâu (the rain of Ngâu). It was believed that the rain was the tears of the Ngâu couple falling because they yearned for each other.

Lễ Thất Tịch is not a popular festival in Vietnam. It is observed more by the Chinese Vietnamese. Indeed, it’s questionable whether it is considered a part of Vietnamese customs and traditions. Lễ Thất Tịch slowly disappeared in the second half of the 20th century, but has recently come back, and is becoming popular among the young Vietnamese, influenced by Chinese culture. On this day, many young people go to the temple to pray: the single person prays to find true love, lovers pray that their love endures, and married couples pray for a long, happy marriage. In recent times, the young Vietnamese have started the “tradition” of having red bean dessert on ngày Thất Tịch believing it brings luck in love.

Although the Thất Tịch’s festival is not popular, the story of Ngưu Lang Chức Nữ is well known by the Vietnamese and has been an inspiration in art, literature and song lyrics, such as the song “Chuyện Tình Ngưu Lang Chức Nữ” (The Love Story of Ngưu Lang Chức Nữ) written by Mạc Phong Linh and sung by Tâm Đoan as seen in the below YouTube link.

Vietnamese are quite superstitious. They would avoid setting a wedding date on ngày Thất Tịch, since it falls on tháng Cô Hồn, the month of the wandering spirits that they may stir things up. Therefore, it’s best to avoid major activities such as building a house, starting a new business, making a big purchase, etc. to avoid trouble. People often go to the temples to pray for luck, peace, and happiness, as well as to do more good deeds and avoid committing bad deeds in this particular month.

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