Sister’s Festival，also called the “Eating Sisters’ New Rice Festival”, is a traditional festival for courtship for unmarried young man and women. It is on the 15th day of the third lunar month, when young man and women gather together by the river to celebrate their age, spring and harvest. On that day, girls cook and dye the rice into blue, pink, yellow, and white to represent spring, summer, fall and winter.
No one knows when this festival started, but the 500 years of history of Shidong town in Southeast Guizhou implies the festival is a long-standing one.
Legend about Sister’s Festival
There was once a family of seven daughters. The daughters turned out to be beautiful when they grew up, and they wanted to choose their Mr Right. Their parents promised to help make their wishes come true. Urged by their parents, the seven girls went to the mountain to collect leaves, flowers and herbs. They then cooked rice and dyed them into colors. The family invited young men from the village and neighbor communities to eat the rice, singing folk songs during daytime and dancing at night. The non-stop singing and dancing allowed the girls to test and observe the men. After three days and nights of singing and dancing, the girls chose their dream husband from about 100 men. They girls gave the men colored rice and told them to choose a date to return for the wedding. By cooking colorful rice and inviting men from miles away for food, singing and dancing, the sisters became the first of the Miao people to marry for love. That helped the Hmong culture to evolve. Thus, the festival is passed down from generation to generation.
During the festival, every Miao family should eat the colored rice, which is dyed and steamed glutinous rice, glittering and translucent, fragrant and pleasant to the eyes.
On the festival day, young men coming from different villages to ask for “sisters’ rice”, which is in fact a social activity for young men and young women. Young men have the freedom to decide which village they go and which girl to date. Each young man chose to date the woman he wants to marry someday. Although he sings about his hunger and thirst, his real meaning is: “I love you, do you love me?” The young woman responds to his song by giving him rice wine and rice wrapped in cloth. When girls send the guys the “sisters’ rice”, their symbols of love are hidden in the rice basket and rice bags.
If she has placed a hot pepper there, it means the guy is rejected. Of course, the guys got rejected never get angry. In the Miao society, even if they cannot become husband and wife, they are still good friends. One chopstick in the basket signals a polite “no-thank-you” to the man’s love. A leaf means he should give her a piece of satin as gift. Grass implies he should send her a needle and thread. Two chopsticks symbolize “I love you too”.
The festival is also a time for married women to return to their parents’ home. This is the only time that daughters see their parents and the one occasion that sisters sit down together all year. Women go back to parents’ home with chickens, rice cakes and hand-woven cloth as gifts for her family members, whereas their husbands won’t go with them but remain at home.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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