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Sisters' Meals Festival - Oldest Asian Valentine's Day

Written by Kelly PangUpdated Dec. 29, 2020
  • Celebrated: April 23 to 25, 2024
  • Location: Guizhou

Sisters' Meals Festival is an important festival of the Miao minority people in China. It's a celebration of love and spring. It was regarded as the oldest "Valentine's Day" of China.

  • Chinese: 姐妹饭节 Jiěmèifàn Jié /jyeah-may fan jyeah/
  • Location: Taijian and Jianhe Counties, about 50 km (31 mi) from Kaili, southeast of Guizhou Province
  • Activities: eat four-color rice, see beautiful ethnic costumes, enjoy the singing and dancing

Sister's Meal Festival Dates

Sister meals festival

This traditional festival falls on the 15th day of the third month in the lunar calendar and the celebration usually lasts for 3 days.

Location of Celebration

Sisters' Meals Festival is celebrated by the Miao ethnic people in southwest China's Guizhou Province, especially in the counties of Taijiang and Jianhe Counties, along the banks of the Qingshui River. It's about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Kaili City.

Colorful Celebration Activities

Different Colored Rice

Steam colored rice

A few days before the celebration, Miao girls collect fresh wildflowers and leaves from the mountains to produce natural coloring in order to dye glutinous rice, known as "sisters' rice".

Steamed rice is dyed blue, pink, yellow, and white to represent spring, summer, autumn, and winter, respectively. In some places, rice is dyed violet-blue.

Beautiful Ethnic Costumes

For the festival, Miao girls dress up in their holiday best with startling silver headdresses, crowns, and neck rings. The Miao people believe that silver represents light and it can dispel evil spirits. You can see young women wearing several kilograms of it at this popular festival. A kaleidoscope of ethnic costumes will provide you with an exotic fashion show.

Singing and Dancing Between Single Men and Women

When the young men arrive, they begin to single out the young women they hope to marry someday and begin to sing for them. Women and men sing in an antiphonal style with interesting words. When the men can't answer the questions by singing, they lose and should give gifts to the women, and vice versa.

There are also many other activities, including bullfighting, horse racing, traditional Miao performances, and Lusheng music.

Legend and History

Sisters' Meals FestivalSisters' Meals Festival

The following legend has been told through the minority people's songs. There are two sisters whose son and daughter grow up together and have a sweet childhood friendship. When they grow up, they fall in love with each other. But the girl's parents insist that she should marry her uncle's son (a Miao minority tradition). The girl refuses to do so, and the boy doesn't want to marry another girl.

To avoid being found out that they are still in love, they always meet outdoors. The girl always takes delicious rice with a bamboo basket for her needle and thread.

Finally, the girl's parents are moved and say "yes" to their marriage. In the Miao people's language, a meal that is taken to a lover secretly is called "gad liangl", which means "hidden meal", and was translated to "姊妹饭" (sisters' meals) in Chinese.

Interesting Meanings of Gifts That Women Give Men

Sisters' Meals FestivalMiao girls

After the celebration, young women wrap colorful steamed rice in a handkerchief and give it to men as gifts with different things hidden inside the rice. There are interesting meanings to the hidden gifts that the women give to the men. See what they imply men should give as gifts in return:

  • Pine needle: men should give needles and yarn
  • Bamboo hook: men should give women umbrellas, and women want the men to contact them
  • Chinese toon sprouts: these imply a woman wants to get married to a man
  • Chinese parsley: this implies a woman wants to get married to a man; it has the same meaning as toon sprouts
  • Cotton: this implies a woman misses a man
  • Both the cotton and Chinese parsley: imply a woman wants to get married to a man as soon as possible
  • Live duck: this implies a man should give a piglet to a woman and they can eat it at the following year's Sisters' Meal Festival
  • Pepper or garlic: these imply a woman doesn't want to be in contact with a man

Recommended Itineraries to Experience the Sister's Meal Festival


If you want to experience the Miao people's culture and appreciate the beautiful minority costumes, please see our recommended tours below, for inspiration:

Our tours can be customized. If you are not interested in the above tours, just tell us your interests and requirements, and we will help you tailor-make a Sister's Meal Festival tour.

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