Today is a traditional Chinese Festival called Qi Xi. The literal meaning is "night of sevens" because it falls on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. And that's today. This festival, which dates back to the Han Dynasty (206BC – 220AD) commemorates a love story, so this has traditionally been the festival to celebrate love; hence it is sometimes called the Chinese Valentines Day.
Now I know why so many people were carrying around flowers today and why flower sellers had suddenly flooded the areas around the subway.
As the story goes, once there was a cowherd,
Niulang, who lived with his elder brother and sister-in-law. But she
disliked and abused him, and the boy was forced to leave home with only
an old cow for company.The cow, however, was a former god who had violated imperial rules and was sent to earth in bovine form.The two fell in love at first sight and were soon
married. They had a son and daughter and their happy life was held up
as an example for hundreds of years in China.Yet in the eyes of the Jade Emperor, the Supreme Deity in Taoism,
marriage between a mortal and fairy was strictly forbidden. He sent the
empress to fetch Zhinu.Niulang grew desperate when he discovered Zhinu had been taken back
to heaven. Driven by Niulang's misery, the cow told him to turn its
hide into a pair of shoes after it died.The magic shoes whisked Niulang, who carried his two children in
baskets strung from a shoulder pole, off on a chase after the empress.The pursuit enraged the empress, who took her hairpin and slashed it
across the sky creating the Milky Way which separated husband from
wife.But all was not lost as magpies, moved by their love and devotion, formed a bridge across the Milky Way to reunite the family.Even the Jade Emperor was touched, and allowed Niulang and Zhinu to meet once a year on the seventh night of the seventh month.