Write Down Your Wishes and Hang Colorful Paper Strips During Tanabata Festival ~ Kwentology

WHEN: July 7 or August 7

What is Tanabata? People in Japan get starry-eyed when Tanabata rolls around. That's because the Japanese festival celebrates the meeting of two of the brightest stars in the night sky—Vega and Altair. The date when this happens depends on where people live in Japan. Most Japanese people celebrate the festival on July 7. In some areas, though, people follow the old lunar calendar and observe Tanabata a month later.

The two stars, Vega and Altair, are tied to an ancient legend that was first told in China. According to the story, after the Sky King permits his daughter Orihime (Vega) to marry a cow herder named Hikoboshi (Altair), the two sweethearts neglect their jobs. Vega, a skilled weaver, stops weaving and Altair forgets to care for the cows. The angry king sends the couple to opposite sides of the River of Heaven (our Milky Way). He allows the to reunite only on one day of the year. When the seventh day of the seventh month arrives, a flock of magpies joins wings to create a bridge for the couple to cross.

Image of Celebration of Tanabata

Throughout Japan, people celebrate Tanabata by hanging colorful strips of paper on leafy bamboo branches. Many write wishes on the paper.

Image of Hiratsuka, Japan Tanabata

In Hiratsuka, Japan, children walk beneath colorful paper decorations during the city's Tanabata festival.

TRY IT! Make Your Own Tanabata Wish

People celebrate Tanabata by hanging paper strips with wishes on them. Here's how to make wish strips.

What You Need

  • sheets of brightly-colored construction paper
  • scissors
  • black marker
  • hole punch
  • 2-inch pieces of string or yarn
  • dowel or long stick

What to Do

Image of Making of Tanabata Paper Strips

1. Cut the construction paper in a half, the long way. On each half sheet, write a wish. Encourage your family and friends to write down their wishes, too.
2. Punch a hole at the top of the sheets of paper.
3. Using string or yarn, tie your wishes to a dowel or a long stick. Display it where all can see. You can also tie your wishes to an outdoor tree branch, but be sure to get permission first.
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