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First off... 七夕节快乐! For those who are wondering, today is the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar meaning it is Chinese Valentine's Day!

Actually something that I have been wondering though is there a difference between 情人节 and 七夕节? I know 七夕节 literally means something like the Seventh Evening but are both phrases interchangeable? Thanks.

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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Though they are similar in significance they happen on two different dates, and therefore are not interchangeable.

七夕节 is a festival based on a very old myth. The story has many variations but simply put it tells of a young cow herder who is separated from his true love, a weaver maiden by a silver river. On the 7th day of the 7th lunar month they are rejoined when magpies form a bridge to allow the lovers be reunited.

情人节 is a festival that started around the 18th century and used the name of a christian saint for the handwritten notes of love they would exchange.

They are very different in background but have given way to the commercial ideals of consumerism. The malls seem to treat both as the same type and I often see it referred to in print as "Chinese Valetines Day"

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"cow herder" is Altair, "weaver maiden" is Vega, and "a silver river" is actually the galaxy. –  Stan Aug 13 '13 at 9:50
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@Stan You are right, I left it out since the OP simply wanted to know the difference. Plus my astronomy is poor. "a silver river" is commonly identified as the milky way. –  tao Aug 13 '13 at 9:55
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Never heard of silver river being used instead of the Milky Way. I sense Chinglish here. –  deutschZuid Aug 14 '13 at 3:25
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In short, they were completely different, but they're almost the same in modern life.

From Wikipedia:

由於過往女子的命運只能嫁作人婦、相夫教子,因此不少女子都相信牛郎織女的傳說,並希望以織女為榜樣。所以每逢七姐誕,她們都會向七姐獻祭,祈求自己能夠心灵手巧、获得美满姻缘的节日。這也就是“乞巧”這名稱的來源。婦女亦會結綵樓,預備黃銅製成的細針(七孔針),以五色細線對月迎風穿針,穿進了為之得久。久而久之,七夕也成為了「女兒節」。不過,古人乞巧不獨七夕,正月及八九月都可以乞巧,只有宋以後才有七夕乞巧。宋元时期,七夕乞巧节变得很隆重,有专门卖乞巧饰品的市场,称作乞巧市。

《荊楚歲時記》記載古代女子在七夕夜的“閨中秘戲”,“七月七日,為牽牛織女聚會之夜。是夕,人家婦女結采縷,穿七孔針,或陳幾筵酒脯瓜果於庭中以乞巧。有喜子網於瓜上。則以為符應。”喜子是指一種小型蜘蛛。《東京夢華錄》則說:“婦女望月穿針,或以小蜘蛛安合子內,次日看之,若網圓正,謂之得巧。”杜甫在《牽牛織女》詩中曾提及這種風俗:“蛛絲小人態,曲綴瓜果中。”劉言史《七夕歌》:“碧空露重新盤濕,花上乞得蜘蛛絲。”

到了現代,七夕節又被人們稱為「愛情節」[1]。许多商家和民众称之为“中国情人节”,但由于“情人”一词可能产生的歧义,以及七夕傳統習俗中並沒有情侶約會的內容,因此民俗专家认为称为“情人节”不适当,而应称“爱情节”[2]。在中国大陆、台灣,七夕節被商家作为商业促销的一大良机,而传统习俗则呈现失落[3]。

傳統七夕女兒節習俗雖然沒落,但現代七夕卻以情人節樣貌重生,在台灣七夕是情侶約會重要的節日,再經過商業化後七夕情人節的重要性已不亞於西洋情人節。
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Mike please provide enough explanation in English. This is a requirement for answers on this site to ensure answers have a decent explanation and not just a wall of copy and pasted Chinese text. –  xiaohouzi79 Aug 13 '13 at 9:34
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Could you possibly translate this? I may misunderstand the true purpose of Chinese.StackExchange, but I am not an expert in Chinese at all so I'd really appreciate an explanation rather than a bunch of Chinese text. –  aug Aug 13 '13 at 16:35
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