Chinese Valentine’s Day (or “Qi Qiao Jie ”) falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar (August according to the Gregorian calendar). As is the custom elsewhere in the world, this is a day devoted to romance.
In China, this day is also known as “The Begging Festival” or “The Daughter’s Festival.” It is an important day for girls. In the evening, girls prepare melons and fruit before worship and prayers for a good marriage.
There are many stories as to the origins of Chinese Valentine’s Day, and one of them involves the Emperor of Heaven and his seven daughters.
The love story
The seventh daughter of the Emperor of Heaven and an orphaned cowherd were separated by the Emperor; the girl was forced to move to the star Vega (織女星，天琴座中的最亮的那顆星)and the cowherd, to the star Altair(牛郎星, 牽牛星). They were only allowed to meet once a year on the day of seventh day of seventh lunar month – Chinese Valentine’s Day.
The story begins with the handsome but poor orphan who lived with his elder brother and sister-in-law. After his parents passed away, the boy’s brother inherited the house and land. But all he had was an old ox. As a cowherd, the boy had to work the farm fields with his ox everyday. His daily life routine resembled the story of Cinderella (《灰姑娘》).
The seventh daughter of the Emperor, also known as the Weaving Maid, was good at handcrafting, especially weaving clothes. The Emperor particularly appreciated her skills of weaving clouds with rainbows to make the world more beautiful.
The cowherd’s ox, which was actually an immortal from heaven, made mistakes in heaven and was reincarnated as an ox to toil on earth. One day, the ox suddenly said to the cowherd： “You are a nice person. If you want to get married, go to the brook and your wish will come true.”
My friend John McHugh is always telling me things, things that younger men need wiser, older men to tell them. Things like whom to trust, how to love, how to live a good life.
Not long ago John lost his wife, Janet, to cancer. God knows she was a fighter, but in the end the disease won their eight-year battle.
One day John pulled a folded paper from his wallet. He’d found it, he told me, while going through drawers in his house. It was a love note, in Janet’s handwriting. It looked a little like a schoolgirl’s daydream note about the boy across the way. All that was missing was a hand-drawn heart and the names John and Janet. Except this note was written by the mother of seven children, a woman who had begun the battle for her life, and very probably was within months of the end.
It was also a wonderful prescription for holding a marriage together. This is how Janet McHugh’s note about her husband begins:” Loved. Cared. Worried. ”
As quick with a joke an John is, apparently he didn’t joke with his wife about cancer. He’d come home, and she’d be in one of the moods cancer patients get lost in, and he’d have her in the car faster than you can say DiNardo’s, her favorite restaurant. “Get in the car,” he’d say,” I’m taking you out to dinner.”
He worried, and she knew it. You don’t hide things from someone who knows better.
“Helped me when I was sick.” is next. Maybe Janet wrote her list when the cancer was in one of those horrible and wonderful remission periods, when all is as it was—almost—before the disease, so what harm is there in hoping that it’s behind you, maybe for good?
“Forgave me for a lot of things.”
“Stood by me.”
And then, good service to those of us who think giving constructive criticism is our religious calling: “Always complimentary.”
“Provide everything I ever needed.” Janet McHugh next wrote.
Then she’d turned the man she had lived with and been in love with for the majority of her life. She’d written:” Always there when I needed you.”
The last thing she wrote sums up all the others. I can picture her adding it thoughtfully to her list. ”Good friend.”
I stand beside John now, unable even to pretend that I know what it feels like to lose someone so close. I need to hear what he has to say, much more than he needs to talk.
“John,” I ask,” how do you stick by someone through 38 years of marriage. “let done the sickness too? How do I know I’d have what it takes to stand by my wife if she got sick?”
“you will,” he says. ”If you love her enough, you will.”
One of the more pervasive and destructive mental tendencies I’ve seen is that of focusing on what we want instead of what we have. It doesn’t seem to make my difference how much we have, we just keep expanding our list of desires, which guarantees we will remain dissatisfied. The mind-set that says “I’ll be happy” when this desire is fulfilled is the same mind-set that will repeat itself once that desire is met.
We want this or that. If we don’t get what we want, we keep thinking about all that we don’t have and we remain dissatisfied. If we do get what we want, we simply recreate the same thinking in our new circumstances. So, despite getting what we want, we still remain unhappy. Happiness can’t be found when we are yearning for new desires.
Luckily, there is a way to be happy. It involves changing the emphasis of our thinking from what we want to what we have. Rather than wishing you were able to take a vacation to Hawaii, think of how much fun you have had close to home. The list of possibilities is endless! Each time you notice yourself falling into the “I wish life were different” trap, back off and start over. Take a breath and remember all that you have to be grateful. When you focus not on what you want, but on what you have, you end up getting more of what you want anyway. If you focus on the good qualities of your spouse, she’ll be more loving. If you are grateful for your job rather than complaining about it, you’ll do a better job, be more productive, and probably end up getting a raise any-way. If you focus on ways to enjoy yourself around home rather than waiting to enjoy yourself in Hawaii, you’ll end up having more fun. If you ever do get to Hawaii, you’ll be in the habit of enjoying yourself. And, if by some chance you don’t, you have a great life anyway.
Make a note of yourself to start thinking more about what you have than what you want. If you do, your life will start appearing much better than before. For perhaps the first time in your life, you’ll know what it means to feel satisfied.