Tanabata – July 7, 2023

Tanabata, or the Star Festival, is celebrated on July 7 each year. This date was chosen not by chance, but according to Chinese legend. In this legend, the two stars, Altair and Vega, which are usually separated from each other by the Milky Way, can meet on the seventh day of the seventh month of the year.

However, Tanabata is still celebrated on August 7 in some parts of Japan because the seventh month of the year roughly coincides with August, not July, according to the previously used lunar calendar. On this day, celebrations are held throughout Japan. Houses and trains are decorated, and wishes are written on paper.

History of Tanabata

Tanabata is one of the five traditional seasonal Japanese festivals that originated in China and was first celebrated in Japan by the ancient imperial court. The Star Festival focuses on the stars Vega and Altair in the constellations Lyra and Aquila, respectively. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the festival marks the annual meeting of Orihime (Vega), the star of the weaver and patron of silk farming, and Hikoboshi (Altair), the star of the shepherd and agricultural messenger.

A folktale says that Orihime, a talented weaver, and Hikoboshi, a hard-working cowherd, began to neglect their responsibilities after marriage. The couple angered the heavenly emperor Tentei, the bride’s father, and was exiled to different parts of the Milky Way. They are allowed to meet on July 7 each year if they diligently fulfill their celestial obligations on other days of the year.

The festival was founded in Japan by Empress Koken in the year 755 A.D. It comes from the “Festival to Require Skills,” an alternative name to Qixi, that is celebrated in China and has also been adopted by the Kyoto Imperial Palace since the Heian period. The festival gained wide popularity among the general public at the beginning of the Edo period. Folk customs associated with the holiday varied from region to country, but girls usually wished for better sewing and craftsmanship, and boys wished for better handwriting, by writing wishes on strips of paper. During this time, it was customary to use the dew left on the tarot leaves to create ink that is used to write the wishes.

Tanabata timeline

755
First Tanabata

The festival is introduced in Japan.

1622
Sendai Tanabata Festival

It is held as a way to improve the holiday rituals of Tanabata and pray for a rich harvest, as well as the development of art.

1872
Adoption of the Gregorian Calendar

Japan begins celebrating July 7, not August as previously done.

2008
The 34th G8 Summit In Tōyako

As the summit falls on Tanabata, G8 leaders are invited to participate in the festival spirit.

Tanabata FAQs

What is the purpose of Tanabata?

Tanabata is celebrated in honor of the romantic story of two lovers, represented by the stars Vega and Altair, who are allowed to meet each other only once a year while the sky is clear.

Is Tanabata romantic?

On a summer night, the Tanabata Lantern Festival lights more than 100,000 paper lanterns, creating one of the most romantic nights that you can imagine.

How many wishes can you make on Tanabata?

Everyone gets one wish a year on Tanabata.

Tanabata Activities

  1. Make a wish

    Traditionally, on this day, wishes are written on long narrow strips of colored paper, called tanzaku, after which it is hung on a tree. Do not miss this opportunity, because your wishes might come true!

  2. Visit the festivities

    You can enjoy the festival by admiring the beautifully decorated shopping street and wearing a yukata (summer kimono). You can also buy snacks at food kiosks.

  3. Decorate the area

    The Star Festival is characterized by enlivening the decor of homes and decorating shopping malls, train stations, and other public places. You can hang colorful paper, bright ornaments, or other decorations on bamboo branches.

5 Facts About Japanese Culture That Will Blow Your Mind

  1. It’s okay to eat out by yourself

    Unlike many countries, it is not surprising to approach and take a table by yourself at many restaurants around the country.

  2. Japan was largely vegetarian

    Buddhist laws passed in the seventh century forbade eating meat but made an exception for birds and fish.

  3. The famous cherry blossom season

    Sitting under the cherry blossoms is another centuries-old tradition.

  4. Manga is popular there

    It is common to see people traveling to work reading a manga (a type of comic) on the phone or standing, flipping through the latest stories available.

  5. Bowing is important

    How many times you bow and how deeply you do it shows your level of respect for the person you are bowing to.

Why We Love Tanabata

  1. It has a romantic story

    The holiday is dedicated to the love of two stars who can meet each other only once a year. Therefore, it is perfect for all romantics on the planet.

  2. We love festivals

    Everyone loves festivals, as they are interesting and fun. Japanese festivals are known to be the best and most unsurpassed of all.

  3. A day to think about the future

    By making a wish on this day, you subconsciously decide what your future life will be. Some want to go to university, others want to get a job, some want to learn calligraphy, and some want to improve their sewing skills. All of these determine your future.

Tanabata dates

YearDateDay
2023July 7Friday
2024July 7Sunday
2025July 7Monday
2026July 7Tuesday
2027July 7Wednesday

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