Tanabata, the Star Festival
One of the five Go-Sekku seasonal festivals of Japan, Tanabata is traditionally celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month. Also known as the Star Festival, Tanabata has its roots in a Chinese legend about the love between a young princess, Orihime, who was a weaver, and a handsome young cowherd named Kengyu (represented by the stars Vega and Altair). As a result of their great love for each other, the weaver neglected her work weaving cloth for the gods and the herdsman neglected his cattle. In punishment, Orihime’s father, the emperor of the heavens, moved the star-lovers to opposite sides of the Milky Way and stated that they would only be allowed to meet once a year: on the seventh day of the seventh month. On this night a flock of heavenly magpies use their wings to form a bridge that the weaver can cross to join her lover. The magpies will only make the bridge if July 7 is a clear night; if it rains, the lovers must wait another year.
In most years, the Portland Japanese Garden holds festival celebrations on the weekend days closest to the traditional holiday dates. In 2013, the Garden will present a special family event on September 15, in honor of the Garden’s 50th anniversary. At this event, visitors will be able to experience aspects of each of the five festivals in a single day, for an exciting overview of the Garden’s festival programming and a very special anniversary celebration.