Tanabata Matsuri (Star Festival) is devoted to two stars who are in love but only allowed to meet just once a year. According to Japanese legend, Kenoyu (Altair, or the cowherd star) and Shokujo (Vega, or the weaver star) fell deeply in love only to be torn apart by the vast expanse of the Milky Way. One day, a tiding of magpies forms a bridge across the Milky Way and the two stars are reunited once more. Although they cannot stay together for ever, they are allowed to meet for one day each year, on Tanabata Matsuri.
The custom of offering prayers to the cowherd star for a fruitful harvest and to the weaver star for skill in weaving has given rise to the festival’s other alternative name, ‘Weaver Festival’. Young people celebrate by writing their hopes and wishes for the coming year onto strips of paper which they then hang on makeshift bamboo constructions in their gardens. At school, children write prayers to the stars for success in their studies. The festival has been celebrated in Japan for centuries, originating from an earlier Chinese custom.
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