Loong Culture

March 3 Festival: Exploring The Old Valentine’s Day in China

March 3 Festival, also called Double Third Festival, Washing Festival or Shangsi Festival, was traditionally celebrated on the third day of March in the Chinese calendar. This blog will cover the festival’s origins, its significance as the Old Valentine’s Day, its importance in ethnic minorities, introducing it into Japan, and the festival’s traditional practices.

March 3 Festival’s Origin

March 3 Festival’s origin is uncertain and subject to various theories. One suggests it stemmed from using orchid grass to fend off unhealthy Chi, while another links it to ancient fertility worship and joyful spring celebrations. Besides, another theory connects the festival to the commemoration of the Ancient Legend Emperor Huang(2717 B.C.- 2599 B.C.), whose birthday is believed to be March 3.

Chinese Old Valentine’s Day

In ancient China, the March 3 Festival was celebrated as Valentine’s Day, with its origins in Shijing (1100 B.C. – 600 B.C.), The book of Songs. Girls would dress in beautiful attire and take part in activities like picking orchids and dancing to ward off negative energy. Poet Du Fu glorified this tradition in his poetry:”Weather is clear and fresh on the third day of the third month, Beautiful women are plentiful along the waterfronts of Chang’an”. However, as social norms grew stricter, its romantic significance diminished.

Among Ethnic Minorities

While the March 3 Festival may not hold as much significance as other major holidays in China, such as the Spring Festival, it remains essential for certain ethnic minorities. For instance, the ethnic Zhuang celebrates a grand Singing Festival on March 3, marked by large gatherings where young men and women meet, sing, and exchange souvenirs as a symbol of mutual interest. The festivities usually last two to three days, featuring activities like throwing embroidered balls and hitting colored eggs.

Chinese Festival

Introduce to Japan

March 3 Festival in China was brought to Japan during the Sui-Tang dynasties. Japan observed this date according to the Chinese calendar before the Meiji Restoration, and then later switched to the Christian calendar date of March 3rd. In Japan, this celebration is more focused on teen girls, particularly those of preschool age, in contrast to China where it is centered on young girls. So it is also called the Doll’s Day.

Remove Illness

As early March arrived and winter’s chill began to fade, the water temperature rose, prompting the ancient Chinese to participate in a ritual of taking their first bath after the winter season. This custom served to purify the body and remove illness. It also symbolized a wish for health and peace, encompassing the idea of warding off illness and inviting blessings.  

Praying for Birth

In ancient times, the March 3 Festival primarily involved worshiping Gao Mei, the God of childbirth, with the main activity being a sacrificial ritual. This celebration included bathing, believed to have curative properties for women’s infertility, and communal gatherings aimed at seeking prosperity for offspring(rumors and stories). 

Winding Stream Party

Winding Stream Party involves placing wine cups in the water and letting them drift. When a cup stops in front of someone, they must drink the wine and write a poem. This activity tests the wit and adaptability of the participants, and also adds joy and amusement to the festival. 

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