By Yu Le and Lucy Hornby
BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Valentine's Day is the universal celebration of love, but some young Chinese are reviving their heritage and keeping an age-old, lunar romance festival alive.
Western festivals such as Valentine's Day, Christmas and even Thanksgiving have been embraced by many among China's growing ranks of affluent, Westernized professionals. But there are some, especially those in their twenties, who are going traditional.
"I'll go to the cinema and have dinner with my boyfriend," said Mao Rui, a college student who said she had received a bracelet from her boyfriend as a gift for the Qi Xi Festival, which is celebrated on Wednesday.
"The culture behind Chinese Valentine's Day is very romantic and beautiful."
The Qi Xi Festival falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month and celebrates the legend of the fairy Zhinu and her mortal, cowherd husband Niulang who are allowed to meet, on a bridge that spans the Milky Way, only on that day.
But unlike other mainstream celebrations, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Lunar New Year, Qi Xi is not widely marked and remains firmly in the shadow of Valentine's Day.
"The flowers I sold for Qi Xi were less than a half of the ones sold on Valentine's Day," a Beijing florist told the website of China National Radio (www.cnr.cn).
"Qi Xi does not have a unique festive mood, not like Valentine's Day when we think of flowers and chocolates," added Zhang Yong, a 27-year-old company employee.
Xu Yang, a banker who got married last year, told Reuters that she and her husband didn't want to celebrate two "Valentine's Days" a year.
"So we decided to skip Qi Xi," she said. "Although Qi Xi is more traditional, the calendar we use in daily life is not the lunar one."
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)