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Chilseok is a Korean traditional festival which falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Korean lunisolar calendar, originating from the Chinese Qixi Festival. Chilseok is a period where the heat starts to pass away and the monsoon season begins, and the rain that falls during this period is called Chilseok water. As pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons start to flourish during this period, people traditionally offered fried pumpkin to the Great Dipper.
The Story of Chilseok
According to the well-known story, the heavenly king had a daughter called Jiknyeo (Hangul: 직녀, Hanja: 織女), who was very good at weaving beautiful clothes. One day, when she looked out of the window while weaving, she saw a handsome boy, a herder called Gyeonwu (Hangul: 견우, Hanja: 牽牛), just across the Milky Way. She fell in love with him. Finally the heavenly father allowed the two to get married. Afterward, Jiknyeo did not want to weave clothes, and Gyeonwu did not take good care of the cows and sheep. The heavenly king grew angry, and ordered the couple to live apart from each other, allowing them to meet only once a year. On the seventh day of the seventh month of each year, they were excited to meet each other, but they could not cross the Milky Way. However, crows and magpies worked together to form a bridge across the Milky Way for the couple. After a while, their sadness returned because they were forced to wait another year before meeting again. It is said that crows and magpies have no feathers on their heads because of the couple stepping on their heads. If it rains on that night, it is said to be the couple's tears.
On Chilseok, Koreans traditionally take baths for good health. In addition, it is traditional to eat wheat flour noodles and grilled wheat cake. Chilseok is known as the last chance to enjoy wheat based foods, since the cold winds after Chilseok ruin the good scent of wheat, making these dishes a must have for the dinner table. People also used to eat wheat pancake called miljeonbyeong (밀전병), and sirutteok, which is a steamed rice cake covered with azuki beans.