Starting next Friday, Tainan City will host the 10-day International Chihsi Arts Festival alongside the "coming-of-sixteen" ceremony -- a tradition unique to Tainan -- to be performed at various temples which will in the city on Aug. 18.
Legend has it that once a cowherder married a weaver girl from Heaven and had children.
But a goddess was upset that a fairy maiden had married a human and recalled the weaver girl.
The couple, standing on each side of the Milky Way, could only meet each other on Chihsi when magpies started forming a bridge between them.
In the modern age, Chihsi is celebrated as Lovers' Day in Taiwan.
However, Chihsi has another special meaning for the people of Tainan -- it's the traditional day for the "coming-of-sixteen" ceremony, Tainan Mayor Hsu Tain-tsair (
"Coming-of-sixteen" (zuo shiliusui,
"Most people have only heard half of the Chihsi story, but we know the full story in Tainan," he said. "After the weaver girl was recalled to Heaven, six other fairy maidens -- sisters of the weaver girl -- came down to take care of her children; therefore, children who become adults would show their appreciation to the qiniangma (seven fairy maidens, 七娘媽)."
A table with offerings arranged on it was set up at the news conference to demonstrate the coming-of-age rituals.
All the offerings -- including tea, pastries, fruits and noodles -- came in sevens, "so that the qiniangma may each get a share," Hsu Keng-hsiu (許耿修), director-general of the Tainan City Cultural Affairs Bureau, told reporters.
"The makeup and perfumes on the table are to tell the girls that they may start using those items now that they are adults. The betel nuts and cigarettes serve the same purpose for the boys," he said.
Two teenagers crawled out from under the table, which "symbolizes that they've come out of the qiniangma's palace," he said.
"During the Qing Dynasty, workers at Tainan's Wutiao Harbor (五條港) were paid as child laborers if they were under 16, but would be paid full wages when they turned 16. That's why we celebrate the coming-of-sixteen," Hsu Tain-tsair said.
"The coming-of-sixteen celebration tells our young adults to be grateful to their parents, to be independent and to be responsible," he said, "while the celebration also preserves a unique Taiwanese tradition," he said.