According to the story of Tanabata, the God of the Heavens became very angry and forbade the two lovers to be together. But he was also the father of Orihime and loved her deeply. To make her happy, he arranged that they could meet up once a year if Orihime returned to her weaving. This day became the 7th day of the 7th month.
Finally, the long-awaited day arrived, but the Milky Way was too difficult for both of them to cross. A flock of magpies saw Orihime’s sadness. Compassionately, they made a bridge for her so she could cross and reunited with her lover. Many say that when it rains on Tanabata, the magpies do not come and the lovers have to wait another year.
When Tanabata first arrived in Japan from China in the Heian period (794 – 1185), aristocrats in the imperial court would write poetry while gazing at the stars to celebrate the lovers. It wasn’t until the Edo period (1603–1868) that the story of Tanabata and its festival was celebrated by all the people of Japan. It was during this period that the tradition of writing wishes on tanzaku, brightly colored pieces of paper, and hanging them from branches of bamboo became part of the celebration.
People started using a tall and straight bamboo to hang the strips of paper with their wishes. Doing this, they hoped that their dreams would be sent to the heavens. Now that you know the bittersweet story of Tanabata, it is time to write your own wish and hang it from a bamboo branch.