Tanabata: Japanese Star Festival
7th of July is Tanabata・七夕 which is one of the seasonal celebrations in Japan and also called star festival. In the northern hemisphere, during this time of the year, you can see three big stars in a beautiful milky way.
Towards this day, people make and place decorations on a bamboo tree and write a wish on a long piece of paper to hang on the branch.
Bamboo tree is believed to have spiritual power for the wish to be heard.
This custom began in Edo period (1603-1868) when many students began schooling and wished for improvement of their skill such as in reading and writing, abacus, geography and history, farming, sewing and martial arts.
Japanese star festival comes from a mixture of a few folk tales from China and Japan and some of Japanese old customs.
One of the tales is about Weaving princess, Orihime and Orihiko who were banned to see each other, but later permitted to see each other once a year as a reward for their hard work.
There is also a tale of a girl who weaved special materials for the King of the universe on the platform by the river who was also hard working and legend in weaving which was called 棚機 (Tanabata).
This day is also for the celebration of the summer season. There is a custom of purifying the spirit by the river before Obon to invite the spirit of ancestors.
In addition to making a wish for the improvement for your skill, people also make a wish for good health and luck, and show appreciation for summer crops in Japan including eggplant, cucumber and wheat.
On this day, thin wheat noodle called Somen is eaten with cold dipping sauce to encourage apatite on a hot summer day. The noodle is sometimes decorated in the way it looks like the milky way.
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