In Japan, it’s not unusual this time of year for children to have stars in their eyes. In fact, it’s encouraged. July 7 is when families celebrate Tanabata – also known as Evening of the Seventh or the Star Festival – to commemorate a special, once-a-year reunion between two celestial bodies.
Visitors to The Woodlands Children’s Museum will have a chance to experience this festival for themselves on Friday, July 7, when the museum hosts a Tanabata celebration with a hands-on art activity and Japanese dance performances.
Tanabata marks the once-yearly meeting of two stars: Vega and Altair. Ancient Japanese folklore assigned the stars human identities. Orihime (Vega) was a gifted weaver, and Hikoboshi (Altair) was a hard-working cow herder. But after the two wed, they began to neglect their duties. The bride’s father, who happened to be the emperor of heaven, then exiled the husband and wife to separate ends of the Milky Way. Now they only can reunite once a year, on July 7, if they both diligently fulfill their celestial obligations on the other days of the year.
“As children celebrate Tanabata at our museum, they’ll know that children across the globe, in Japan, are engaging in similar activities,” said Angela Colton, the museum’s executive director. “In Japan, it’s traditional for children and adults to write wishes on colorful strips of paper during the festival. Then, they hang the strips and other colorful ornaments on bamboo branches that they place in their backyards, or the entrances to their homes.”
Museum visitors will be invited to do the same and to hang their wishes on the tree at the museum.
“Every time we host this festival, we find that families are captivated by the Tanabata mythology,” Colton said. “Not only does it make the movements of the stars much easier for children to understand, honoring it here in The Woodlands gives children a vivid look at another culture and its unique traditions.”
The museum’s Tanabata celebration is set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will include Japanese dances performed by Risa Tallent at 10:45 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.
These activities are included in the museum’s daily admission of $6 for adults and children 1 year and older. The museum is recommended for ages 7 and under.