July 7th is called Tanabata or Star Festival in Japan. People celebrate the day at home and in schools. Many cities and towns hold festivals and have Tanabata displays decorating the main streets. In some regions, people light lanterns and float them on the river, or float bamboo leaves on the river.
The festival traces its origins to a legend that the Cowherd Star (Altair) and Weaver Star (Vega), separated by the Milky Way, are allowed to meet just once a year-on the seventh day of the seventh month. Tanabata originated more than 2000 years ago with an tale called Kikkoden. Once there was a weaver princess named Orihime and a cow herder prince named Hikoboshi After they got together, they were playing all the time and forgot their jobs. The king was angry and separated them on opposite sides of the Amanogawa River (Milky Way). The king allowed them to meet only once a year on July 7th.
In Japan people write their wishes on narrow strips of coloured paper and hang them, along with other paper ornaments, on trees or bamboo branches placed in the backyards or entrances of their homes. They then pray hard that their wishes will come true. The most common Tanabata decorations are colourful streamers. Streamers are said to symbolise the weaving of threads. Other common decorations are Toami (casting net), which means good luck for fishing and farming and Kinchaku (bag), which means wealth.
The Tanabata festival is thought to have started in China. It was transmitted to Japan during the feudal period and combined with traditional local customs to become an official event at the Imperial court, with different localities developing their own distinctive ways of celebrating.
Tanabata Activities - Japanese words, chopsticks, paper lanterns, Onigiri (Rice Balls), Moon cakes
courtesy of Dagenham and Barking Childminding Association