Valentine’s Day of Li Ethnic Group
March 3rd— the Li’s Valentine’s Day
March 3rd in the Lunar calendar is a day of grand gathering among Li people once in a year. The gathering site is generally located in the open rubber woods, where the green leaves shade the sky and the “leaf blanket” spreads over the ground, cool and quiet. The day also becomes a “love festival” of the local people to choose their spouses freely. About the holiday origins, there are two fables. One tells that in the ancient time, the Li people living on the bank of Canghua River suffered a huge flood disaster. Only a pair of lovers sitting in a big gourd ladle escape from the disaster luckily and they drifted to the Birdnest Mountain, where they got married on March 3 after the flood retreated. The couple bear children, work hard, and help one another in difficult time, gradually making the Li nationality multiply and develop. The later generations take the couple as their ancestors and on March 3 of each year, people will hold a grand commemoration.
The other fable goes like this. Long lang ago, in the Birdnest Mountain on the common boundary of Changjiang and Dongfang counties, there was a large house shaped like a stone ship (Typical modelling of the Li people’s residential houses), where a very attractive Li girl changed into a stone sculpture of Goddess of Mercy. On March 3 of the next year, a group of lovers encountered the rain when they were playing on the mountain. They found the stone building and took shelter from the rain in it. In the thunderclap, the gate was shut. Wishing their own children to have beautiful looking and live a good life under the bless of the Goddess of Mercy, people celebrate “March 3” as their holiday.
In the holiday, men and women, the old and young all wear their splendid attire, and take cake, Zongzi (glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves), and fish to the cave entrance as the sacrificial offerings to Goddess of Mercy. After holding a memorial ceremony, the young people will come to the activity center, playing sports games, such as archery, pole-climbing, wrestling, tug-of-war, swing, etc. When the night comes, piles of bonfire are lit up. The guys prop up the umbrellas, while the girls’ silver decorations and shell ornaments glimmer in the flame.
The sweet love songs gradually turn from being gentle and lyrical to being bold and unrestrained. The lovers in pairs quietly leave the bonfire, the guys hanging the ear bells onto the girls’ ears and inserting the hairpin made of deer bone on the girls’ bob, the girls tying the colorful belt woven meticulously by themselves around the waists of their lovers. Both sides swear to make an appointment on March 3rd of the next year and will not leave without seeing each other. Because the origin of the holidays is related to marriage, it is also known as the love festival.
Li people have practised the monogamy, and the marriage is not allowed in the same clan. After their children grow up, they will have their own living rooms, called “Long Gui.” The young men and women can date freely, playing the nose xiao (a Chinese musical instrument) and stringed musical instrument together, singing love songs and looking for the lovers. Whey the young finally want to get married, they should request for agreement to their parents. In some regions, there is still the custom that the wife will keep living in her parents’ home temporarily after the marriage.