Google rolled out a celestial-themed doodle Monday to mark China’s romantic Qixi Festival, which occurs when the stars Altair and Vega appear closest together in the sky.
The Qixi Festival falls on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month in the Chinese lunar calendar and celebrates the courtship of Niulang, an oxherd, and Zhinü, a fairy who became a weaver after they married.
According their Han Dynasty-era origin story, Zhinü’s marriage to a mortal angered her empress mother who called her fairy daughter back to the heavens. When Niulang, using the power of a magical ox hide, tried to follow her up there, Zhinü’s mother tore the sky asunder to separate them — the rip created a Heavenly River of stars, otherwise known as The Milky Way.
Once a year Niulang and Zhinü — who became the stars Altair and Vega — are permitted to meet across a bridge of magpies. On the day of the Qixi Festival it’s traditional for Chinese lovers to exchange handmade gifts like scarves or hats, in honor of Zhinü’s stint as a weaver.
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