Tanabata | What is it, When is it and How is it Celebrated?
If you’re familiar with Japanese culture, you may have heard of Tanabata (七夕・たなばた), a Japanese holiday.
But what exactly is Tanabata?
Well, that’s what we’ll be telling you all about today!
This post will cover when people celebrate Tanabata, why they do so, and how the festivities take place.
And don’t miss the bonus Tanabata vocabulary in Japanese so you can learn some useful words related to the festival as well!
Let’s get to it!
Tanabata | When is it?
Tanabata | What is it and Why is it Celebrated?
Tanabata | How is it Celebrated?
Tanabata | Tanabata Vocabulary
Tanabata | FAQ’s
FUN FACT | Did you know Tanabata can also be known as the Star Festival (星祭り・ほしまつり)?
When is Tanabata?
Tanabata is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month, which falls on July 7th in the Gregorian calendar and sometime in August depending on the Lunar Calendar.
In fact, the name Tanabata (七夕) has the kanji（七）for seven in it!
Some regions prefer the lunar calendar, but others follow the Gregorian one.
FUN FACT | Did you know 七夕 is one of the many Chinese Valentines Days? You can find out about why China has so many Valentines Days here.
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What is Tanabata and why is it celebrated?
Tanabata is a festival based on a Chinese legend about a pair of lovers, Orohime (織姫・おりひめ) and Hikoboshi (彦星・ひこぼし) who can only meet once a year, when a bridge forms from the earth to the heavens.
According to the legend, Orohime was the daughter of the king of the heavens, who fell in love with and married Hikoboshi.
Afterwards, she abandoned her duties as the weaver of the heavens, angering her father, who separated them by placing them at opposite ends of the Milky Way.
However, Orohime cried so much that her father relented and allowed her to meet Hikoboshi once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month.
FUN FACT | The reason the festival takes place in the summer is because there’s not very much rain and you can see the Milky Way more clearly!
How is Tanabata Celebrated
The most popular way to celebrate Tanabata is to write your wishes on tanzaku (短冊・たんざく), or little pieces of paper, and tie the papers to the branches of a bamboo tree.
Other decorations include nanatsukazari (七つ飾り・ななつかざり), which are a variety of decorations made of oragami.
These include lanterns, cranes, and yukata – all small and made of paper!
BONUS | Colours used does vary, but commonly used colours are red, black, blue, white, and yellow, which correspond to the 5 Chinese elements fire, water, wood, metal, and earth.
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What Food do People Eat for Tanabata?
Now that you know how to decorate for Tanabata, it’s also important to learn about what to eat!
One traditional food eaten during Tanabata is sakubei (索餅・さくべい), a dessert made of sticks of rolled dough, which uses both wheat flour and mochi flour.
Another dish is soumen (そうめん), a type of very thin noodles that are served cold (since the festival is held in the summer) and eaten with tsuyu sauce.
Here are some key words you should learn for the Tanabata festival:
|Hoshimatsuri (alternate name for Tanabata)||星祭り||hoshimatsuri|
BONUS | Use this image below as a flashcard to study the key words related to Tanabata
Want to find out more about other Japanese culture? We’ve got plenty more useful content for you including:
- A list of all Japanese National Holidays (with dates)
- Be sure to follow this list of things not to do in Japan
- Discover life in the Onsen’s of Japan
- Learn about what it’s like to go dating in Japan
Tanabata // Frequently Asked Questions
What is Tanabata?
Tanabata is a Japanese festival that celebrates the meeting of two lovers who are separated by the Milky Way and can only see each other once a year.
On this day, people write their wishes on small pieces of paper (called tanzaki) and tie the papers to bamboo (called sasatake).
What is Tanabata in Kanji?
Tanabata in Kanji is 七夕, which uses the characters for “seven” and “night.”
What is Tanabata written in Hiragana?
Tanabata in Hiragana is たなばた
When is Tanabata?
Tanabata is on 7/7, however it varies depending on if you use the Gregorian or Lunar Calendar.
What foods are eaten on Tanabata?
People eat soumen (a type of noodles) and sakubei (a dessert made from rolled dough) on Tanabata.
What decorations are used on Tanabata?
Many different kinds of decorations are used on Tanabata, including a variety of shapes made from oragami and small pieces of paper tied to bamboo.
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