Japan’s Tanabata Festival commemorates the fabled reunion of Orihime and Hikoboshi. See pics

Tanabata or The Star Festival, has been is celebrated in Japan since 755 and is one of the main summer festivals in the country. Tanabata originated from a Chinese myth dating back several millennia. The dates of the Tanabata festival varies by region in Japan but the first festivities begin on July 7 as per the Gregorian calendar. The celebration is held on various days in the months of July and August.

One of the most popular customs of Tanabata is to write wishes on small strips of paper called tanzaku. Tanzaku is then pinned onto or hung under bamboo trees. The wishes, along with the bamboo, is then set afloat on a river or burned once the festival is over.

Tanabata and Obon are linked in terms of the customs, except that in case of the latter, paper boats are set afloat. As per the Japanese lunisolar calendar, the two festivals would often overlap. They became separate events once the Gregorian calendar began being used.

Google Japan today marked this festival with a doodle commemorating the reunion of two star-crossed lovers, the deities Orihime (Vega) and her lover Hikoboshi (Altair) kept apart by the Milky Way.


The legend of Orihime and Hikoboshi

A weaver princess named Orihime, the daughter of the Sky King, and a cow herder prince named Hikoboshi lived peacefully by the “heavenly river” of the Milky Way. However, when they met and fell in love, the duo began neglecting their responsibilities.

Orihime stopped weaving cloth, and Hikoboshi let his cows wander all over the skies. This attitude towards work angered the king, and as punishment he separated the two lovers across the galaxy.

 

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The king eventually relented and allowed the much-in-love couple to meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month (July 7 as per the calendar).

The legend also stresses that the two can’t meet if it’s raining, so it is necessary for people to pray for clear skies on this day.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the festivities will be curbed, keeping WHO guidelines in mind.

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