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Miao Sisters' Meal Festival 2023

Feel the warmth of hearts during this Asian Valentine's day

Dates: May 4–6, 2023 (unconfirmed)

Miao Sisters' Meal Festival
Miao Sisters' Meal Festival

A celebration of a springtime in the Shidong area of Guizhou magically coincides with the Sisters' Meals Festival also called the oldest Asian Valentine's Day. Traditionally, it takes place in the middle of the third lunar month. As the legend says, the event got its name from Miao people’s language: a meal that is secretly taken to a lover is called "gad liangl" ("hidden meal"). The thing is that once upon a time, the children of two sisters, a boy and a girl fell in love with each other. After a long and sweet childhood friendship, they decided to get married when they grew up. After a long time the girl's parents finally approved their marriage. And all these years their daughter took tasty rice for her lover, with whom she secretly met outdoors.

Since then, The Sisters’ Meals Festival transformed into an annual three-day event along the banks of the Qingshui River, where young men try to find young women they want to marry someday. And women give men a sign if they don’t mind dating. They both dance and sing love songs to draw attention to each other. Miao’s girls are desperately attracted to silver, as it is a symbol of purity. The more silver—the better: chest-locks, hairpins, neck-rings, and tons of accessories. Ritually, the more massive, the more abundant, and more plentiful silver ornaments are, the more beautiful and attractive a girl looks.

Just before the celebration, Miao girls pick some leaves and wildflowers from the mountains to dye glutinous rice, well-known as sisters’ rice. The colours of rice represent spring, summer, autumn, and winter. At the start of the festival, every Miao family should eat coloured rice. But when girls send it to guys, that’s when the most intriguing part of the celebration happens: they wrap the rice in handkerchiefs which contain different symbols, mostly various plants and each of them has a meaning. For example, cotton implies that a girl misses her guy, and bamboo hooks mean further contact. If there is Chinese parsley, a young woman wants to marry her young man; and pepper or garlic mean she doesn’t. In Miao society guys never get angry about the refusal, because at least they can become good friends.

There are also many different activities such as bullfighting, horse racing, drum dancing, rowing, and Lusheng music, dedicated to the elders who already have a partner.

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Last updated:
Authors: Olha Savych