The Sisters Meal Festival is a festival that takes place in Shidong, Guizhou, China. It is one of the courtship festivals that is celebrated by the Miao ethnic minority. This festival is a traditional form of Valentine’s Day and this day is dedicated to the young girls and boys of the Miao minority. It is both a celebration of spring and is a festival of love. It is representative of the full bloom of the beautiful young girls who are ready to be plucked. The festival takes place on the 15th of the third month of the lunar calendar. The main feature of this festival is the dyed rice. Rice is dyed in five colours, yellow, red, blue, white, and bland, and is also known as lover’s rice. This rice is dyed from various flowers, berries, and plants that are collected from the mountains and hills.
The origin of this festival is that an old couple who lived by the riverside had three young and beautiful daughters. While they were by the side of the river one day, they were lovesick. The bearded god, Zhang Guolao, possessed them and asked them to make rice balls of different colours with different fillings such as shrimp and fish. Later, when young men came down from the mountain, these girls offered the rice to those young men. As a result, they were able to find marriage partners for themselves.
In this festival, young boys go to different villages and decide on the girl that they wish to date. Girls, on this occasion, dress up in traditional clothing with a lot of traditional jewellery as well. It can be observed that girls are sporting big silver head-pieces and heavy silver jewellery. This is done for two reasons. Silver does not only represent purity for them, the sheer abundance of silver on a young girl is also seen as a sign of beauty.
In the festival, the young boys head out in search of their partner and this is done by asking for sisters’ rice from the chosen girl. The basket of rice and rice bags that the girl sends to the boy represents her various feelings and affection. There are various items that are used to communicate assent or dismissal. These items are usually different plants kept in various baskets or bags. A bamboo hook suggests that the girl is interested in further communication, the buds of a Chinese tree, the Chinese Toon, represent marriage, and garlic represents refusal. Although a boy may be refused, the girl and the boy continue an amiable friendship.
Another feature of the festival is the dances that the girls do. They dance in circles and sing songs of love to the music of the lusheng. This is the time of the year that gives the young boys and young girls of Guizhou an opportunity for a social gathering as well. This festival also incorporates various other activities of singing, dancing, bullfighting, horse-racing, and all the other traditional Miao ethnic activities. At times, beauty contests also take place to display the beautiful young girls who are ready for courtship. This festival also attracts many tourists because of its pomp and festivity. There are picnics that take place as well with traditional food and a lot of story-telling, games, and other activities that keep the Miao minority busy throughout the day.