七夕【Tanabata (the Star Festival)】

The Star Festival is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month. It used to be held on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Today, however, it is celebrated on July 7th of the solar calendar in most of Japan except for some rural areas. These areas still celebrate Tanabata one month later on August 7th as they still use the lunar calendar. Tanabata originated from a star festival that was held in ancient China. This festival was introduced to Japan in the eighth century. The legend behind Tanabata is based on that of two stars, Altair and Vega, that are in love. Altair is compared to a cowherd and Vega is compared to a weaver. They are prohibited from meeting each other and they only have the chance to get close to each other once a year when they pass on to the Milky Way. Tanabata is the night of their annual rendezvous. In ancient Japan, Tanabata was an imperial court festival. Many centuries later, during the Edo period (1600 to 1868), this became a popular festival among the general public. Over a long period, it became the custom to offer seasonable vegetables and fruits such as eggplant, cucumber, and watermelon to the stars on the evening of Tanabata. People also put up bamboo decorated with various ornaments and strips of fancy paper on which they had written poems, proverbs, and personal wishes. The Tanabata Festival in Sendai, in Miyagi Prefecture, is celebrated with pomp and splendor each year and is a famous festival in Japan.

七夕は7月7日に行われる星祭りのことです。現在では太陽暦の7月7日に行うのが一般的ですが、旧暦の7月7日に行う地方もあります。七夕は古代中国の星祭りを起源とし、8世紀に日本に伝えられました。牽牛星(アルタイル)と織女星(べガ)を恋人同士にたとえ、二人が7月7日の夜に天の川を挟んで年に一度の出会いをするという伝説に基づいています。日本では古代には宮中の祭りとして行われていましたが、何世紀もの年月を経て江戸時代には一般庶民の行事として定着しました。そして七夕の夜には季節の野菜や果物(なす、きゅうり、すいか等)を星に供え、詩やことわざ、願い事を書いた短冊や色とりどりの飾りをつけた笹を立てることが習慣となりました。仙台の七夕祭りは特に有名で、毎年盛大に行われています。

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