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Tanabata, the Star Festival

Tanabata, also called Star Festival, is celebrated each year in Japan on July 7 (August 7 in some regions). It is one of five seasonal festivals celebrated in Japan since the 8th century. This year, there will be a colorful display along the Crumpacker Bamboo Allee for guests to enjoy.

Tanabata was inspired by an ancient Chinese folk legend of two stars—Hikoboshi, the Cowherd Star (Altair) and his lover Princess Orihime, the Weaver Star (Vega). Orihime and Hikoboshi were in love, but banished by Orihime’s father the Sky King to opposite ends of the Milky Way for neglecting their work to spend time together. Moved by his daughter’s sorrow over this, the Sky King allowed them to meet just once a year on the 7th night of the 7th month. On this night a flock of magpies use their wings to form a bridge so that the Orihime (Vega) can cross the Milky Way to be united with Hikoboshi (Altair). The magpies will only make the bridge if July 7 is a clear night; if it rains, they must wait another year. Because of this legend, many Japanese people pray for a clear night on July 7.

Each summer in Japan, people prepare for the festival by writing their wishes on narrow strips of paper called tanzaku and hanging them with other origami paper ornaments on bamboo branches displayed at the entrance to their homes and public places. Everyone prays that the night sky will be fair and their wishes will be granted. In times past, boys wished for better handwriting and girls wished for better sewing skills.