The Seventh of the Seventh Month(七夕)

The Seventh of the Seventh Month

Headword

칠석 ( 七夕 , Chilseok )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Seasonal Customs > Autumn > 7th Lunar month > Seasonal Holidays

Writer KimYongduk(金容德)

Chilseok (Kor. 칠석, Chin. 七夕, lit. Seventh Evening) is a folk festival celebrated on the seventh of the seventh lunar month. According to a folk tale, every year on this day Gyeonu (Kor. 견우, Chin. 牽牛, Ox Herder) meets his lover Jingnyeo (Kor. 직녀, Chin. 織女, Weaving Maid). The two characters are thought to live on the opposite sides of the heavenly kingdom ruled by the Jade Emperor. The emperor cherished the young herder’s sincerity and diligence, and married him off to his granddaughter. However, the new couple fell so deeply in love with each other that they gradually came to ignore their duties of ox-herding and weaving. Their negligence brought chaos to the celestial world, driving its people into misfortune and famine. The Jade Emperor grew furious at what was unfolding before his eyes, and separated the two lovers with the Milky Way between them. Their tragic story deeply moved the crows and magpies, and this led the birds to gather on the seventh of the seventh lunar month. They formed a bridge across the Milky Way so that the couple could be briefly reunited. It tends to rain around Chilseok. When it rains the day before Chilseok, it is believed to be the tears of joy shed by the reunited lovers. If it rains on the day after Chilseok, it is thought to be the tears of sorrow shed when the lovers have to separate again.

In the past, a variety of events were used to celebrate Chilseok. According to the “Dongguk Sesigi” (Kor. 동국세시기, Chin. 東國歲時記, A Record of Seasonal Customs in Korea, 1849), young students had to write poems about the story of Gyeonu and Jingnyeo. There were also customs called pogui (Kor. 폭의, Chin. 曝衣, clothes drying) and pokseo (Kor. 폭서, Chin. 曝書, book drying) – clothes and books were taken out of wardrobes and shelves and dried in the sun in order to prevent them from growing mold after the rainy season. The festival offered women an opportunity to pray to the spirit of Vega, or the Weaving Maid’s Star, for good skills in needlework. This custom, referred to as geolgyo (Kor. 걸교, Chin. 乞巧, lit. praying for talent), involved an early morning ritual in which women offered fruits and vegetables to the goddess, such as melons and cucumbers, and asked her to make them better needle workers. It was thought that if a spider web appeared at night over the table, it meant that the Weaving Maid had heard their prayers and would grant their wishes.

The objects of worship and the details of the offering ritual conducted on Chilseok differed according to family and region. One of the most popular festival foods was a thin, round pan-fried cake called miljeonbyeong (Kor. 밀전병, Chin. - 煎餠). A special gathering known as Chilseok Nori (Kor. 칠석놀이, lit. Seventh Evening Play) continued until late at night and involved singing, dancing, and drinking. Farmers thought that the god of agriculture descended and made a tour around the farming fields in the morning of the festival day in order to decide on the amount of harvest each field was to have that year. Therefore, people in farming communities stayed at home believing that if the god was disturbed, he would command a smaller harvest.

The Seventh of the Seventh Month

The Seventh of the Seventh Month
Headword

칠석 ( 七夕 , Chilseok )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Seasonal Customs > Autumn > 7th Lunar month > Seasonal Holidays

Writer KimYongduk(金容德)

Chilseok (Kor. 칠석, Chin. 七夕, lit. Seventh Evening) is a folk festival celebrated on the seventh of the seventh lunar month. According to a folk tale, every year on this day Gyeonu (Kor. 견우, Chin. 牽牛, Ox Herder) meets his lover Jingnyeo (Kor. 직녀, Chin. 織女, Weaving Maid). The two characters are thought to live on the opposite sides of the heavenly kingdom ruled by the Jade Emperor. The emperor cherished the young herder’s sincerity and diligence, and married him off to his granddaughter. However, the new couple fell so deeply in love with each other that they gradually came to ignore their duties of ox-herding and weaving. Their negligence brought chaos to the celestial world, driving its people into misfortune and famine. The Jade Emperor grew furious at what was unfolding before his eyes, and separated the two lovers with the Milky Way between them. Their tragic story deeply moved the crows and magpies, and this led the birds to gather on the seventh of the seventh lunar month. They formed a bridge across the Milky Way so that the couple could be briefly reunited. It tends to rain around Chilseok. When it rains the day before Chilseok, it is believed to be the tears of joy shed by the reunited lovers. If it rains on the day after Chilseok, it is thought to be the tears of sorrow shed when the lovers have to separate again.

In the past, a variety of events were used to celebrate Chilseok. According to the “Dongguk Sesigi” (Kor. 동국세시기, Chin. 東國歲時記, A Record of Seasonal Customs in Korea, 1849), young students had to write poems about the story of Gyeonu and Jingnyeo. There were also customs called pogui (Kor. 폭의, Chin. 曝衣, clothes drying) and pokseo (Kor. 폭서, Chin. 曝書, book drying) – clothes and books were taken out of wardrobes and shelves and dried in the sun in order to prevent them from growing mold after the rainy season. The festival offered women an opportunity to pray to the spirit of Vega, or the Weaving Maid’s Star, for good skills in needlework. This custom, referred to as geolgyo (Kor. 걸교, Chin. 乞巧, lit. praying for talent), involved an early morning ritual in which women offered fruits and vegetables to the goddess, such as melons and cucumbers, and asked her to make them better needle workers. It was thought that if a spider web appeared at night over the table, it meant that the Weaving Maid had heard their prayers and would grant their wishes.

The objects of worship and the details of the offering ritual conducted on Chilseok differed according to family and region. One of the most popular festival foods was a thin, round pan-fried cake called miljeonbyeong (Kor. 밀전병, Chin. - 煎餠). A special gathering known as Chilseok Nori (Kor. 칠석놀이, lit. Seventh Evening Play) continued until late at night and involved singing, dancing, and drinking. Farmers thought that the god of agriculture descended and made a tour around the farming fields in the morning of the festival day in order to decide on the amount of harvest each field was to have that year. Therefore, people in farming communities stayed at home believing that if the god was disturbed, he would command a smaller harvest.