Human Flower Project
7/7, Love & Luck
On the seventh day of the seventh month, two star-crossed lovers meet in the night sky. Asian florists hope to celebrate, too.
July the 7th is known in Korea as Chilsok, “the most romantic day of the calendar.”
According to legend, the seventh day of the seventh month reunites two lovers, a human shepherd named Kyonwu and girl-goddess Chiknyo, renowned for her weaving. The story goes that her heavenly father actually brought the young folks together but then something displeased old dad. Did he realize Chiknyo actually preferred her human husband? Was she shirking her weaving responsibilities?
All we really know is that the grumpy sky king came between the sweethearts, forcing them to live apart, on opposite sides of the Milky Way. Only at this time of year, taking pity, does he let them spend a night together. Traditionally, their reunion was scheduled for the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, but now that the world has gone on sun time, the celebration is observed July the 7th, not only in Korea but in Vietnam, China, and Japan, too.
Chiknyo (Vega), upper left
Kyonwu (Altair), lower right
rejoined in the July sky
Wherever you are this time of year, if it’s a clear night you’ll see the lovers overhead. The shepherd boy is Altair, the bright star in the constellation Aquilla the Eagle; Chiknyo is Vega, beaming at him from Lyra,the Lyre, just across the Milky Way.
“When rain falls on occasion, this is called Chilsokmul or the water of the 7th day. These are the tears that the Herdsman and the Weaver shed because they are so happy of meeting after one year. This is a day when you try new crop such as eggplants or red peppers.” Also, florists are hoping for a major flower binge this holiday as “floricultural families…have been suffering from sluggish consumption.” Quite in contrast with Valentine’s Day, when flower prices in the West bump higher, for 7/7 in Korea, at least this year, “Flowers are sold at a 40% discount.”
July 7, 2000
Photo: Steve Renshaw and Saori Ihara
In China, Double Seven celebrations seem to have been “coming out” parties for young women, an opportunity to show off their talents for cooking, needlework, and of course weaving.
In Japan, the Tanabata festival of July 7 remembers the young lovers, too, though Japanese celebrations shift the attention from romantic tragedy to this night’s good fortune. Time to wish upon a star: write down your heart’s desire on something bright and tie it to a branch of bamboo.
As one prone to wishful thinking, fond of simple star-gazing, and overrun with a bamboo, I’m primed for Double Seven. Now wishing.
(And on top of the bamboo tree, best wishes to Phil Ardery: born 7/7/1945)