Today is Tanabata (the night of the 7th), festival traditionally held on the seventh of the seventh month, often celebrated wherever there are children. It could well be that this feast has been revived in recent years since it was reported in 1910 that it was rarely celebrated in Tokyo, whereas now it seems to be a time chosen for young children all over the land to practice their calligraphy.
According to an old fairy tale of Chinese origin, the night of Tanabata is the only one during the year when the two stars Vega and Altair, known as the celestial princess weaver and her cowherd lover, may meet. The tale has it that the couple fell in love, and, although they were allowed to marry, they spent too much time with each other and neglected their work of weaving and herding. Thus, the weaver princess and her lover were banished by the heavenly emperor, her father, to live on opposite side of the Milky Way. Once a year, in the seventh night of the seventh month, a flock of magpies forms a bridge so that they may meet. However, if it should happen to rain, the magpies are said to be unable to do this so that the couple must wait for another year. To avoid such a sad fate as befell the weaver and the cowherd, children demonstrate their industry each year by writing out some calligraphy. Bamboo branches are erected in homes, nurseries and kindergartens, and decorated with wishes written out on tony strips of coloured paper. The bamboo and decorations are often set afloat on a river or burned after the festival, around midnight or on the next day.