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Sisters' Meal Festival

Sisters' Meal Festival

During the Sisters’ Meal Festival in the third lunar month in Shidong, Taijiang County in Southeast Guizhou Province, girls rush to the mountains to collect wild flowers and berries to dye glutinous rice known as Sister’s Rice. Everyone then starts cooking their respective special meals that are composed of glutinous rice dyed in several colors to form rice balls. Each girl prepares her rice with a symbol and then wraps it in a handkerchief or put it inside small baskets.

The Sisters’ Meal Festival or the Sisters’ Rice Festival, originated from the Miao minority group. Ig is an important and famous festival celebrated in southeast Guizhou Province. Legend has it that there was once an old man and his wife who had three beautiful daughters. One day while they were paying on the riverside, the young girl felt lovesick. Zhang Guolao, a God who carried a bamboo tubular drum possessed the spirits of the girls, telling them to prepare five-colored rolls of glutinous rice filled with shrimp, fish and other special things. When young men came down from the mountain, the beautiful girls presented rice to them. In this way, the young girls found their marriage partners. This tradition continues today during this festival.

The Sisters’ Meal Festival is a celebration of both spring and love. In anticipation of the Sisters’ Rice Festival, the grandmothers, mothers and other female relatives polish and shine the collection of silver neck rings, bracelets, anklets, earrings, hair pins and combs, rings and pendants, phoenix crowns and headpieces that the young courting-age girls will wear. The Miao believe that silver, represents light, which dispels evil spirits. Silver is also a symbol of wealth and beauty, and some young women wear several kilograms at a time. Dazzling embroidered skirts, blouses, aprons and jackets are decorated include silver ornaments. Beautiful women's necks are filled with bands of silver and linking silver chains that support large shining lockets, glittering beads and hanging tassels. Elaborate silver headpieces crown the heads of the girls as they proudly display self-made costumes. The festival always begins with special family meal. Sharing traditional food such as rice that has been colored with the dyes of different leaves, berries and flowers, then cooked in bamboo tubes and homemade rice wine. Some of the dyed rice is made into balls that hold hidden treasures. Dressed in the finest embroidered clothes with silver jewelry, young women set out to attract their expected mate. Guys usually come to visit girls and will receive a warm welcome from them. Upon leaving, the guys will ask for “sisters’ rice” from the girls. They will receive glutinous rice wrapped in handkerchiefs or baskets. If what is wrapped inside is a pine needle, it signals the guy that he should thank the girl by presenting her crewel needle and silk threads. If there is a pair of chopsticks or red petal inside, it means that the girl is urging the guy to marry to her. However, if there is pepper or garlic, it means that the girl doesn’t like him and his time shouldn’t be wasted on her.

Simultaneously, you will find many elders at cockfighting competitions. This is a time of camaraderie and “catching up.” When mid-morning approaches, elders rush off to bullfights. Excitement rises as mighty bulls lock horns, trying to wrestle each other onto the ground. All day long, one bull after another is defeated and then the final match begins. The winning bull will bring honor to his owner and make him rich in the following year. Although it is festival, participants enter into the fights with a sense of seriousness. Such anxiety calls for merriment, eating, drinking and friendly betting. The champion bull’s horns are fastened with chickens, ducks, red ribbons and flowers as he is led around the battleground and through the town, snorting proudly for all to see. Finally, he is bathed in the soothing waters of the Qingshui.

The Qingshui riverside becomes lively and exciting as music and dancing begins. The lovely Miao girls jingle and shimmer in the sun and flirt with handsome young men who are search for a girl worthy of his strength and handsomeness. Towards the evening the newly formed couples break away temporarily and begin singing together.

At night, the festive excitement increases as dragon dances begin. Candles are lit inside the 25-meter-long hollow paper dragons. Battles begin as the fiery dragons weave in and out of the hooting crowds chasing each other. Drums and fireworks compete with the noisy atmosphere. In the evening, the elders continue to greet  friends, swap stories and songs, share tobacco and wine. As the moon rises, young lovers wander off. The mountain paths are busy with sounds of footsteps and melodious voices of singing with the tunes of Lusheng pipes. Also, bamboo flutes and wooden drums echo throughout the valley as dawn breaks, signaling the beginning of the next day’s festivities.