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Guide to Qixi Festival in Singapore: Free Boat Tours, Workshops & Mega Carnival in Chinatown

Qixi Festival guide
Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life

All you need to know about the Qixi Festival 2023 in Singapore. Falling on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month on 22 August 2023, the Double Seventh Festival (aka Chinese Valentine’s Day) is being revived in Singapore with fun Qixi activities and a carnival in Chinatown!

The Qixi Festival 2023 in Singapore is being revived after being almost forgotten for decades — it is said to have been grander than Chinese New Year and one of eight staple Chinese festivals celebrated in Singapore since the mid-1800 originating in China. The Qixi Festival (七夕节) is centred on the practice of participants wishing upon the stars under the night sky — it is apparently not as many believe, the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day despite the Qixi origin story of two star-crossed lovers. Over the years, the Qixi Festival has faded into obscurity outside of China with many unaware of its existence or the meaning behind its traditions. Let’s take a look at Qixi, a festival that is full of history and culture and we’ll see how it is celebrated in Singapore as Qixi Fest this year with free Qixi boat tours, activities and cooking demos and a mega carnival in Chinatown!

Read More: Best Restaurants in Singapore for Date Night

When is the Qixi Festival 2023?

Falling on the seventh day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar, the Qixi Festival takes place every year between July 31 and August 29. This year the Qixi Festival will be celebrated on 22 August 2023 (but as we’ll see below in Singapore Qixi Festival will be celebrated over many weekends from July until August when it will culminate in a mega carnival at Smith Street, Chinatown).

Qixi Fest in Singapore: free Qixi boat tour, activities & carnival

Qixi Festival singapore
Image credit: Peakpx

Qixi Festival is being revived in Singapore as The Qixi Fest, to span 7 weekends from 7 July 2023 and will culminate in a mega carnival at Smith Street, Chinatown on August 19 and 20. There will be a free boat tour (16 July 2023, 8pm, deets here) and trails; storytelling sessions; and an exciting line-up of hands-on activities such as crocheting classes in the crafting spirit of the festival, heritage cooking and demonstration workshops with Qixi festival snacks. Many of the Qixi Fest programmes in Singapore are free while others are ticketed.

Qixi Fest’s finale event on 19-20 August 2023 is a mega carnival featuring cooking demonstrations of lost heritage foods, special art-in-action showcases with practitioners such as Andy Yeo who will be painting lanterns on the spot, and cultural music performances including guzheng orchestral music and a martial arts display!

Qixi Festival: Chinese Valentine’s Day/Qiqiao Festival/Double Seventh Festival

Also known as the Qiqiao Festival or the Double Seventh Day (and some even say Chinese Valentine’s Day), the Qixi Festival is based on the star-crossed love story between Zhinu, a weaver girl who is the daughter of a goddess and Niulang, a mortal cowherd. Legend says that the two of them fell in love, got married and had two kids before Zhinu’s mother found out about the couple. Enraged that her daughter fell in love with a mere mortal, Zhinu’s mother dragged her back to the heavens and created the Silver River also known as the Milky Way to block Niulang from chasing after Zhinu. Touched by their love story, the magpies on land formed a bridge across the river so the two could reunite. Eventually, their love story also moved Zhinu’s mother and she permitted them to meet once a year on the same day hence the celebration of the Qixi Festival on the seventh day of the seventh month every lunar year.

Traditions for Qixi Festival

Image Credit: Eko Herwantoro

Traditionally, women would pray to Zhinu on the day of the Qixi Festival with offerings such as tea and fruits. Single women would pray for a good spouse and newly wed couples would pray for a good marriage. In the night, the Qixi Festival celebrations would continue with women competing in a needle work contest to see who can thread the best in low light.

Feasting for Qixi Festival: Qi Qiao Festival

Feasting for Qixi Festival: Qi Qiao Festival
Qiaoguo (Qixi Pastry) for Qixi Festival

Another way people traditionally celebrate Qixi is by making ‘Qiao Foods’, so called because Qixi Festival is also called Qi Qiao Festival. Qiaoguo (Qixi Pastry) is the ultimate Qixi Festival food. The main ingredients are flour, sesame, sugar and honey. Qiaoguo is a traditional fried thin pastry that comes in various different shapes sometimes made with a wooden mold. Qixi pastries gained popularity during the Song Dynasty and are believed to help reunite couples on the magpie bridge during the Qixi Festival.

How to celebrate Qixi Festival in Singapore in 2023?

Some say that Qixi is a day to spend time with one’s partner or even get hitched – as some couples choose the Qixi Festival as a date to get married (though some still hold superstitions around the day regarding separation!). Rather than the traditional ways of celebrating Qixi, many go the Western route and swap out the traditional Qixi celebrations for more modern Valentine’s Day traditions like giving flowers, chocolates and other Valentine’s day gifts.

Read More: Gifts for Chinese Valentine’s Day Singapore

Qixi festival singapore
Image credit: Qixi Fest 2023

According to Qixi Fest (七夕乞巧嘉年华) festival director Lynn Wong who is reviving the Qixi Festival celebration in Singapore, the Qixi Festival is not a Chinese Valentine’s Day but centred on the practice of wishing upon the stars under the night sky. Qixi was brought over to Singapore as a celebration by women pioneers as early as the 19th century. The women formed sisterhood organisations called Seven Sisters’ Associations, or Milky Way Associations, to celebrate Qixi festival together. Customs include Qiqiao (乞巧), which is the practice of wishing upon the stars to become skillful in the arts, such as needlework and handicrafts. Qixi Festival was marked by grand public displays of handicrafts in Chinatown – especially those that involved Majies (妈姐, domestic servants) from the Shuntak region – but these traditions have disappeared since the 1970s as many Majies began to retire and returned to their hometown.

Check out the upcoming Qixi Festival events in Singapore here.

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Lead image credit: Pexels

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