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Tanabata Festival of the Stars

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2022-07-07 10:49:17

       7th July, or the 7th day of the 7th month in Japan, is the day of Tanabata, a day of love where a weaver princess and a cowherd meet only once a year. People will write their wishes on small pieces of paper called tanzaku and hang them on bamboo branches to pray for the stars.

       On the night of Tanabata, the Orihime Star (Vega) or Weaving Princess Star and the star Hikoboshi (Altair) or the cowboy star will shine the most in the year. According to legend, a weaver princess and a cowherd fall in love and begin to abandon their duties. When Orihime's father, the ruler of the heavens, found out, he was furious. Thus he separated the two by the Milky Way in between. The two meet once a year on the 7th of the 7th month.

       The Shepherd star (Altair) represents artistic talent. The weaving female star (Vega) represents nobility.

       Originally, Tanzaku sheets had only five colors: blue, red, yellow, white, and black (or purple), each with a different meaning. Inside is written a prayer along with other types of decorations made of paper to hang decorations on bamboo branches similar to Christmas tree decorations. Because bamboo is considered a sacred tree that will help ward off evil. At the end of the festival, this bamboo will be floated on the water.

       Other decorations are used to decorate bamboo branches with tanzaku, such as paper cranes, to wish for a long life. A paper lantern, a kinshaku bag that symbolizes a purse to pray for wealth. Decorative items shaped like nets made of paper, to wish for a prosperous fishery. Paper folded into a doll or kimono, it is believed that it will help ward off ailments, and more according to the culture of each locality.

       During the Tanabata festival, many places in Japan are uniquely decorated with bamboo hangings, paper wishes, paper lanterns, and other ornaments made of colorful paper like other summer festivals, visitors may wear a yukata.

Story and Illustration: Ratchanok Thongkhaokham