One of the most magical and colorful times in Japan happens over the summer. I’ve had the pleasure of being there during the Tanabata Festival. Bright streamers hang hopefully from above, and colored paper adorned with calligraphy flutter from bamboo branches. Also known as the Star Festival, the celebration originates from an ancient tale that has become one of my favorites.
“Follow your heart’s compass.”
The legend goes…a cow herder (represented by the star Altair) fell in love with a weaver (star Vega), whose father was the Star King. Every day, the two crossed the river that separated them to spend time together—eventually, she neglected her weaving and he allowed the cows to wander freely.
Their carelessness angered the Star King, who widened the river into the Milky Way to keep the lovers apart. The weaver and cow herder were filled with sorrow and wished with all their hearts to be together again. The magpies were so touched, they flew up to create a bridge in the sky to join the lovers. Every year, on the seventh day of the seventh month, the magpies create this bridge to allow the lovers to reunite.
On July 7th, the Tanabata Festival commemorates the one day a year that the lovers’ wish comes true. Children write wishes and poetry on brightly colored paper called tanzaku and tie them to bamboo trees. At the end of the celebration, the decorated trees are burned to allow the wishes to float to the stars.
Wherever I am, the Tanabata Festival is a good reminder to follow your heart’s compass. I like to set aside time to reflect on my journey and the wishes that are guiding my path. How has your heart guided you?