Sisters’ Meal Festival, the counterpart of Qixi of Han Chinese and Valentines’ Day in the western world, is the Valentines’ Day of Miao Nationality in southeast Guizhou Province. As an ancient courtship ritual prevailing among Miao people in southeast Guizhou Province,Sister's Meal Festival has a history dating back several thousand years, some anthropologists honor it as the most ancient Valentines’ Day in the world.
Legend of the Sister's Meal Festival
The origination of this festival, is as colorful as this festival itself. Here goes my favorite version: Once upon a time, there was a big Miao village hidden in Taijiang County, southeast Guizhou. Each year after the harvest season, young men would delve into the forest to hunt for several months, leaving their families behind. In this village, over 70 Miao beauties were at the prime of their age. Occupying themselves with laboring, singing, dancing and doing embroidery, these girls lived an affluent life, yet, they were unhappy. Reading their minds, a wise senior-aged man came up with a brilliant solution: he suggested girls divide the glutinous rice into three portions: one for brewing wine, one for daily consumption and the rest for preparing rice balls. When spring comes, hunters come back. Dressed up like fairies, Miao girls entertained young men with rice wine, rice balls as well as other dishes. They also held a party which lasted for several days and were filled with singing and dancing. In this way, these lovesick ladies find their soul mates. Perceiving the advantage of this love match activity, Miao people preserve it in the form of a settled festival, which remains a romantic and effective way to find true love.
Where to see ?
The three days of the Sister's Meal Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of each third lunar month in downtown Taijiang County(台江县), Laodun Township(老屯乡) and Shidong Town(施洞镇). The one celebrated inShidong Town which is 35km away from Taijiang, is the grandest and most distinctive one. You can see the most beautiful Miao girls, the most eye-dazzling silver ornaments and the most delicate embroidery there.
What to see ?
To celebrate this annual love-seek carnival, Miao young men will dress to impress and ladies dress to kill. A multitude of villagers from far-flung corners will swarm into Shidong Town, just like numerous colorful streams converge into a sea. The mountains, valleys, waterfronts and meadows of this town will be packed with excited faces, and a myriad of inviting festivities includingLusheng singing and dancing, boating, drum-beating, rooster fighting and bullfighting, will be hosted.
For Miao people, the most important part of this festival, however, is Sisters’ Meal, an eye-pleasing and appetizing delicacy made of glutinous rice. As the highlight of this festival, it holds the key to decode this love ritual’s riddle. For instance, one pair of chopsticks atop of the rice balls indicate “I love you”. Single chopstick means: “you are not my dream man”. Chillies, garlic and shallots read: “you are annoying”. Leaves and pine needles signify there is a glimpse of hope, and the young man should try harder to win the girl’s heart. Serving to reveal Miao girls’ true feelings in a most subtle way, this treat means a lot to these enthusiastic and restless young Miao bachelors.
To prepare Sisters’ Meal, Miao girls will gather fresh flowers, fruits and strawberries to extract red, green, yellow, black and white juices before dying the glutinous rice and molding into tiny balls. During this festival, each Miao family will prepare enough rice balls for their daughters, relatives and unexpected guests. Married women often avail this opportunity to visit their parents, bringing baskets of mouth-watering food.
For young Miao suitors, if they want to have a bite of Sister’s Meal, excellent performance during the Courtship Singing Contest is a prerequisite. At the end of the festival, girls will award those winners with Sisters’ Meal, which convey their true feelings to their suitors, and for these men, it is a moment full of suspension.