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Tanabata, the Star Festival

Children with Tanabata wishes
Photo by Tyler Quinn

When visiting the Garden between June 29 and July 7, you’ll find a colorful display of tanzaku, or wish strips, hanging from bamboo in the Garden’s Bamboo Allee. This is in celebration of Tanabata, the Star Festival.  This tradition of writing wishes or prayers comes from the Edo period, when children were encouraged to practice their writing and hang them from bamboo for all to see. Tanabata is one of five seasonal festivals celebrated in Japan since the 8th century.

According to an old Chinese folk legend, Vega the Weaver Star and Altair, the Cowherder Star were lovers. Because of an angry god, they were allowed to see each other just once a year after crossing the Milky Way on the 7th night of the 7th month.