Tanabata 七夕

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Tanabata Festival 七夕祭り in Japan on July 7 | Copyright S35ktmo Dreamstime.com

The Tanabata Festival 七夕祭り

The Tanabata Festival 七夕祭り is a festival (matsuri 祭り) which is celebrated on July 7 of each year in Japan. It is on this occasion that we come to hang ex-votos in the bamboo, very colorful little papers on which we have written our wishes.

Tanabata is a traditional festival originating from O-Bon お盆, a Japanese Buddhist matsuri celebrating the feast of the ancestors, or from the Chinese star festival Qīxī 七夕 which in Chinese means “night of the seventh month”, which explains that Tanabata matsuri 七夕祭りis celebrated every year on the seventh of July.

The legend of Tanabata 七夕 may differ depending on the oral tradition of the stories but they are all pretty much the same.

It is the story of a meeting, that of two stars, Vega (Orihime) and Altaïr (Hikoboshi), on the seventh night of the seventh month of each year.

The star Orihime 織姫, Princess weaver who lived on the banks of the Celestial River Amanogawa 天の川.
Her nimble fingers created the most beautiful fabrics in the Universe, and her sublime beauty filled her father, Sky Lord 天帝, with happiness.

But her father could not take full advantage of this happiness, knowing his daughter suffered from loneliness as she worked.
Orihime wished she had some time to one day meet the Prince Charming she dreamed of so often.

So the Lord of Heaven decided to arrange a meeting for his daughter.
One day, in all discretion, he presented her to the sparkling Star Hikoboshi 彦星, shining on its constellation like an eagle in full flight.
Hikoboshi was incredibly hardworking and watched over his cows from across the Celestial Amanogawa River with an attention and diligence that made him the best herdsman in the Universe.

When they saw each other for the first time, it was cosmic love at first sight.
Since that day, Star Orihime and Star Hikoboshi never separated and soon got married.

But love had blinded them and detached them from their main task, from what they knew how to do best in the Universe.
This is how Orihime stopped making her beautiful fabrics and Hikoboshi started neglecting her work, which triggered the Sky Lord’s wrath.

Annoyed by the presence of cows wandering all over the sky and no longer having the slightest cloth to cover themselves with, he had to put an end to the lovemaking of the young couple and forbade them to see each other again.
Again, the Heavenly River Amanogawa separated the two Stars.

But this terrible separation made the Weaver Princess very, very sad and her face turned into a lake of tears.
Her father could no longer bear the grief of his daughter, which caused an unbearable tear in him.

He then proposed to the two Stars, Orihime and Hikoboshi, to meet again each year, on the condition that they work as they used to do in the past.
So the couple began to work diligently to meet again on the seventh night of the seventh month of each year.

When this long-awaited day came for the first time, they realized that they could only see each other without being able to embrace each other, because the Celestial River which separated them had no bridge.

Then Princess Orihime cried so much, that thousands of magpies came and promised to build a bridge with their wings so that the lovers could cross the Celestial River and embrace each other.

Since then, every year at the same period, we write wishes on small papers, named Tanzaku 短冊 dedicated to small poems, which we also hang in the bamboo so that Orihime and Hikoboshi answer our prayers.

The legend of Tanabata was presented during the Poppy opus 1 installation for Rendez-vous au Jardins 2018 in the Bamboo Chapel of the Wild Garden of Cabriès (France).

To find out more about this installation

Installing Popii | Rendez-vous 2018 in the choir of the Jardin Sauvage’s Bamboo Chapel
Installing Popii | Rendez-vous 2018 in the choir of the Jardin Sauvage’s Bamboo Chapel