JAPAN: Tanabata Star Festival

Celebrate Tanabata

Today is the Japanese festival of Tanabata, or “star festival”. It takes place on the 7th day of the 7th month. It originates from a Chinese legend that says “the two stars Altair and Vega, which are usually separated from each other by the Milky Way, are able to meet.”

Tanabata, or the star festival, is observed on July 7. As the date approaches, long, narrow strips of colorful paper known as tanzaku, vibrant ornaments, and other decorations are hung from bamboo branches, enlivening the decor of homes as well as brightening shopping arcades, train stations, and other public spaces. Before they are hung, tanzaku are inscribed with a wish, such as a child’s dream of becoming a famous soccer player or a parent’s hope for career success.

2020 Tanabata—A Virtual Experience

Skywatch for the week of July 6, 2020

Today is Tanabata Day in Japan, marking the reunion of the weaver princess and the cowherd. This far-eastern story is over a thousand years old. The Jade Emperor’s daughter, Tanabata or Chih-Nu, loved a herdsman, Niu Lang. The father disapproved, and so he placed them up into the sky; Chih-Nu became the star Vega, and Niu Lang is the star Altair – both stars are well-placed in the eastern sky after sunset tonight. The Emperor then set Tien-Ho, the great Celestial River to separate them. Tien-Ho is the Milky Way, which when the skies are dark, you can see runs between these two stars. But on the seventh day of the seventh month, if skies are clear, magpies gather and with their wings form a living bridge across the Milky Way, so Chi-Nu and Niu Lang can be together once more. Part of a traditional poem recited at this time goes, “the stars twinkle on the gold and silver grains of sand… The stars twinkle, and there they will watch us.”

Tanabata 2020

The origins and legend of Tanabata: Japan’s ‘Star Festival’

Vega: Brilliant blue-white star in the Summer Triangle

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