Do you know there is a festival grander than Chinese New Year? What is it? Why haven’t I heard of this festival before? What’s the name of this festival? The Qixi Festival is traditionally celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. It’s coming back again, reviving a forgotten festival – Qixi Fest 2023. This inaugural Qixi Fest will span seven weekends, kicking off on 7th July 2023 in Chinatown. Qixi Fest is supported by the Singapore  Tourism Board, the festival is expected to take place annually. 

What is 七夕节 (Qixi Festival)?

The Qixi festival (七夕节) falls on the 7th day of the 7th Lunar Month. This festival is associated with the legend of the reunion of the weaver fairy and earthly cowherd. This YouTube video “The myth of the original star-crossed lovers by Shannon Zhao” would help to tell the Qixi festival story more in detail!

This festival was typically held under the stars, Qixi festival was powered by women, actively celebrated and commemorated for several decades that began in the 19th century via a community like party atmosphere filled with vibrant open houses and bright and colourful decorations.

When you cap off you Qixi festival celebrations, you would pen down your wishes and send it to the stars above you.

Origins of Qixi Festival

Unwed Cantonese women formed organisations known as Milky Way Associations for performing mass celebratory customs and practices. Many were majies (domestic servants that largely came from Guangdong, China).

Qixi festival was introduced to Singapore around the 1920s, celebrated through the decades before fading out in the 1970s due to rapid changes in economic development and changing fabric of Chinatown – a key celebration zone.

The main drivers of Qixi festival were female factory workers, samsui women, majies, clan associations, entertainment hostesses and prostitutes, families of female shipyard employees, from all dialect groups.  

Reviving A Forgotten Festival – Qixi Fest 2023

An event that was said to be grander than Chinese New Year, it’s one of the eight staple Chinese festivals celebrated in Singapore since the mid-1800s. What happened to Qixi festival along the way that gave rise to reviving this forgotten festival in 2023?

Although it was brought into Singapore and organised annually by immigrant Chinese women, this festival faded away into oblivion due to huge changes in Singapore, from the rapid pace of urban development of Singapore, and the changing fabric of society. 

Qixi Fest aims to bring back this age-old festival through a series of interesting and interactive programmes and activities, from boat tours, storytelling sessions, and exciting hands on cultural, arts and craft activities. 

Guest-of-Honour, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Finance and NationalDevelopment, and an MP in Tanjong Pagar GRC Ms Indranee Rajah, who officiated the launch,said: “I’m heartened to see the revival of a beloved festival, a legacy of our pioneeringforemothers. The community in Chinatown has come together to pull out all the stops for the first edition of Qixi Fest, resurrecting a lost cultural celebration for wider public consumption, including new generations of Singaporeans. It’s an admirable endeavour. By celebrating and preserving our rich cultural heritage, we’re helping to strengthen the foundational blocks of our Singaporean identity.”

3 Core Themes of Qixi Fest 2023

  1. (Her)Story: Celebrating female migrants and pioneers that brought Qixi Festival to Singapore in the 19th century.
  2. Qiqiao (乞巧): To revive the custom of “Wish upon the stars” that dates back to the Han dynasty through the skilful practice of arts and handicrafts. 
  3. Sustainability: To grow Singapore’s local heritage and arts eco-system 

Qixi Fest 2023 is the brainchild of Singaporean cultural researcher Lynn Wong, who has been formulating plans to revive the festival since the late 2010s. 

Ms Wong said: “The community has been very supportive of our endeavour and are contributing in myriad ways towards the festival’s revival. We believe the Qixi Fest is one of many ways to enliven the cultural precinct of Chinatown — an anchor zone for Qixi celebrations of yesteryear. It is my hope that we can revive the festival during the lifetime of the women who first introduced it to our shores.”

Ms Lim Shoo Ling, Director, Arts and Cultural Precincts, Singapore Tourism Board said, “We are delighted to support the inaugural Qixi Fest held in the heart of Chinatown. The seven-week long festival enables visitors to discover Singapore’s rich traditions and customs through specially curated talks, workshops, exhibitions and tours. Events such as the Qixi Fest showcase our unique cultural heritage and enhance the vibrancy of our cultural precincts for locals and visitors.

Lucky 7s for Qixi Fest 2023

This inaugural Qixi Fest 2023 is blessed with a few lucky 7s, not just because it’s 七夕节. Qixi Fest 2023 was launched on 7th July 2023, it will span across 7 weekends, right up to the 7th day of the 7th Lunar Month (22nd August 2023) . Why 7 weeks? For this year 2023, there’s an extra leap month in the lunar calendar.  

Meet the Cute and Adorable Mascot QiQi!

Meet QiQi, the cute and adorable mascot of Qixi Fest! QiQi is the magpie mascot that plays an important role to help the Weaver Girl (Vega) and Cowherd (Altair) stars reunite by forming a bridge with fellow magpies across the Milky Way. 

QiQi (七七) is named after the 7th day of the 7th Lunar Month. Designed in shades of blue, representing the colour of the night sky, with star motifs to symbolise the Milky Way. QiQi wears a seven-pointed star, sporting a helpful smile, always pointing the direction to new happenings and events for Qixi Fest participants. 

Exciting lineup of Events/Programmes at Qixi Fest 2023

There are many exciting lineup of events/programmes taking place during Qixi Fest 2023. They are ideal for families with children, a great time for family bonding time as well the opportunities to learn more about Singapore’s heritage and culture.

Here are some exciting programmes/activities taking place during Qixi Fest 2023 that I am highlighting below:

Qixi Boat Tour

Take a 30min boat tour along our Singapore river, under the starry night skies of Singapore. This is a specially curated series of boat tours that allows you to retrace a part of Singapore’s history, heritage and culture, intriguing and heartfelt stories of female migration and learn more about Kinmen people whose “Tongkang” a.k.a. bumboat, once plied the Singapore River, making them once an iconic sight of Singapore’s trade along the busy Singapore River.

The Qixi boat tours are held in collaboration with clan association partner Kim Mui Hoey Kuan (金门会馆). The boat tours will take participants past key sites and monuments along Singapore River, beginning and ending at the Clarke Quay Jetty.

  • Dates: 16, 23, 30 July & 6, 13 August (Sundays)
  • Time: 8:00pm to 8:30pm (English tour), 8:30pm to 9:00pm (Chinese tour) [Kindly arrive 15 minutes before event for registration]
  • Embarkation & Disembarkation Point: Singapore River Cruise Clarke Quay Jetty
  • Price: Free, limited to 30 pax per tour (10 tours in total)

Make a Wish Magpie

QiQi is the cute and adorable mascot for Qixi Fest. At this “Make a Wish Magpie” workshop, you can customise your crochet magpie plushie! Play your part to form the “magpie bridge”, your penned wishes can be send to the stars above. 

This is a public workshop experience run by Tiny Rabbit Hole, held at the historic Kong Chow Wui Koon clan association (a Qixi Fest partner), with a rich heritage and history going all the way back to 1940. Participants will get to take in the sights of the workshop space and take photos of themselves back into a historical old world, basking themselves in history, heritage, culture, conservation and preservation. 

  • Price: $49.00 (exclusive of Eventbrite fees), limited to 10 pax per session
  • Language: English & Chinese
  • Age & Experience Level: Suitable for beginners with no crochet experience. Adults and children 7+ are welcome (children under the age of 10 should be supervised by an adult)

Workshops and Experiences

  • Hands on workshops recreating lost heritage foods
  • East meets West calligraphy 
  • Hanfu craftsmanship 
  • Introduction to harmonica playing
  • Opera make up experiences 
  • Outdoor sketching 
  • Parent-child bonding craft activities 
  • Qixi-themed riddle solving 

Qixi Fest Mega Carnival

The Qixi Fest mega carnival is taking place on 19th and 20th August 2023, at Chinatown’s Smith Street. The public can look forward to live band performances, guzheng orchestral music, and even a martial arts display by young children.

For more information on Qixi Fest 2023

If you like to know more information on Qixi Fest 2023, the list of exciting and interactive events , workshops, activities and programme lineup, please visit Qixi Fest website. 

Follow their social media channels and keep up to date with their events and activities!

七夕节快乐! Happy Qixi Festival!

Wishing all a Happy Qixi Fest 2023! 祝大家七夕节快乐! Let’s all come together, play a part to revive and welcome back Qixi Festival back to Singapore! 

*  A TGH Photography x Canon EOS R6 Mark II Explorer Series Production *

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