Tanabata (七夕) is the Japanese version of the Chinese Qi Xi (七夕) festival, aka "the Night of Sevens". It was exported to Japan about a millenia ago during the time of The Empire of The ('Northern' as we posthumously call them) Song, or what is known in Japan as the 'Heian' period. We're calling it ''Tanabata'' and not ''Qixi'' because [[UsefulNotes/HistoryOfTheColdWar Japan was a NATO-ally throughout the Cold War whereas Communist China did not align with NATO until the 1970s]], meaning that [[FirstGirlWins the Anglosphere's first mass-exposure to the festival was through the Japanese]].

The festival is based on the legend of two StarCrossedLovers, Orihime (Zhinü) the weaver and Hikoboshi (Niulang) the cowherd, symbolized respectively by the stars Vega and Altair (both only visible in the northern hemisphere). Throughout the year they are separated by the river of the Milky Way, but for a single night each year - the seventh day of the seventh month of the most of the Chinese lunisolar calendars - one of them is said to be able to cross the void and they can be together. The method of crossing varies depending on the storyteller, but the most popular and romantic way is by a bridge of birds who serve them out of sympathy for their plight - often magpies, which are lucky birds in Chinese mythology.

In China, Japan, and Korea (where it's called Chilseok) the festival is a cultural equivalent of European Christianity's 'Day of Saint Valentine'. In China's south (of the Yanzi river), they celebrate the day by eating mooncakes (among other things), but the Japanese generally celebrate this day by writing wishes on ''tanzaku'' paper and hanging them on bamboo, sometimes with other decorations. The bamboo and decorations are often set afloat on a river or burned after the festival (around midnight or on the next day).

[[AC:{{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* In ''VisualNovel/UminekoNoNakuKoroNi'', there is a side-story called "The Witches' Tanabata", in which the audience learns about the witches' philosophies when it comes to granting Tanabata wishes.
* Aoi of ''Manga/AiYoriAoshi'' was born on the day of Tanabata, and at one point is seen hanging tanzaku on bamboo.
* ''LightNovel/HaruhiSuzumiya'' revolves around this trope. On July 7, on one Tanabata, Haruhi meets the mysterious [[spoiler:John Smith, actually Kyon who went back in time]], making her start to have beliefs in supernatural beings, thus driving the show - not to mention she was trying to write letters to Hikkoboshi and Orihime at the time. Three years later, she forces the SOS Brigade to write wishes and even ''calculates the exact amount of time it will take said wishes to reach Vega and Altair'' (25 and 16 years, respectively), and tells them to expect them to receive the responses to those wishes at that time. She then starts to think about the mysterious person she met those years ago, [[spoiler:to an oblivious Kyon, who hasn't gone back in time yet. Also, in the Disappearance timeline, Kyon returns to the Tanabata of three years ago to make sure Haruhi remembers "John Smith", although this trip is mainly to meet Yuki and the older Mikuru in order to ensure his universe is restored to normal]].It also probably worth noting that "Kyon" could be a mangled derivative of the name of the male of the pair in the Korean legend.
* In ''LightNovel/{{Bakemonogatari}}'', Senjougahara is born on 7th of July, and [[spoiler:on their first date]] she shows Araragi where the Summer Triangle (Formed by Deneb, Altair and Vega) is located. The Summer triangle is also mentioned in the ending, with Altair's and Vega's Japanese names (Hikeboshi and Orihime) mentioned in it also.
* The anime and the manga versions of ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'' have two different {{filler}} stories based around Tanabata. In the manga, a variant of the habit of writing wishes on leaves is used as the basis for a RedStringOfFate effect, with Ranma having to struggle to keep his and Akane's leaves together and avoid their leaves being tied to those of other people. The anime episode is a tale where Akane falls off of a roof and then meets Princess Orihime (referred to in the dub simply as "Princess Ori") in person, who has descended from the Milky Way to seek out Hikoboshi ("Kengyu the Cowherd" in the dub), her fiance, who has gone missing. As she explains over the course of the episode, the two of them are intended to wed and carry on the Milky Way School of Martial Arts, but she got into a fight with Hikoboshi over his lackadaisical manner and laid-back attitude, so now he's come to Earth in a huff to challenge and defeat earthly dojos to prove he is a strong fighter after all... but the Princess's father will make her marry another man if he hasn't returned to the Milky Way by the end of the festival. The episode ends with Akane waking up to discover she apparently was having a dream while concussed after falling off of the roof at the episode's beginning, though there is an OrWasItADream twist.
* A [[SugarWiki/HeartwarmingMoments particularly heartwarming episode]] of ''Manga/HidamariSketch'' takes place on Tanabata. Sae and Hiro have an argument and spend the day avoiding one another until Miyako and Yuno help them patch up their differences, and [[RomanticTwoGirlFriendship in the evening they decorate a bamboo together and hang wishes on it]].
* [[LoveFreak Karara]]'s first appearance in the ''Manga/SgtFrog'' anime included her learning about Tanabata and making a wish. This directly ties into Tamama and the others [[ViewerGenderConfusion finally learning her real gender]], as her wish was to become Tamama's bride.
* In [[Manga/ChuukaIchiban Chuuka Ichiban!]], Mao is inspired by the legend of Tanabata (the original Chinese version, of course) in making a noodle dish made of squid ink to represent the night sky and pearl dust to represent Orihime and Hikboshi, respectively.
* In ''Manga/LuckyStar'', this is the Hiiragi twins' birthday. It's also Ponytail Day because the legend says Vega had a ponytail, so they try wearing their hair in ponytails for a bit.
-->'''Tsukasa''': Vega and Altair... I hope they meet this year... twinkle twinkle twinkle...
* The anime version of ''Manga/RurouniKenshin'' had an episode where Kaoru expected Kenshin to treat her to something special for the holiday but Kenshin, who forgot about the holiday, mistook her hints for reminders of her birthday (which was months away). To make matters complicated, Kenshin found a ring inside a fish he caught and, not only forgetting about Tanabata but also not knowing about the Western tradition of engagement rings (which Kaoru and Tae were familiar with), gave her the ring... [[AccidentalMarriage so Kaoru was now believing Kenshin proposed to her.]] Later on, by chance, Sanosuke meets the man who lost the ring (and is [[SpurnedIntoSuicide about to commit suicide]] because he threw the ring away in the middle of a fight with his girlfriend and fell into depression when he realized what he did) and learn about the tradition. Seeing Kenshin's face when he understood the mess he got himself into, it was hard to remember he's a feared assassin. [[spoiler: It all ended more or less well: the ring was retrieved from Kaoru and then given back to the dude (who handed it to his girl), and Kenshin gave Kaoru a flower bouquet to make up for it. (And Tsubame and Megumi also got flowers from Yahiko and Sano).]]
* Inoue Orihime of ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'' had a running Tanabata theme given her name. This was lampshaded a couple of times in color-spreads: One by strategically giving her a 7/7 (the seventh day of the seventh month) as her symbolic number and another by having her [[MeaningfulName alternate name]] translated as Vega Highwell (Vega being the star pertaining to Tanabata's Orihime). In the [[http://www.mangachapter.me/1193/bleach/0and1.html Bleach pilot chapter]], the parallels to the Tanabata story are even more prominent, with Ichigo and Orihime paralleling Hikoboshi and Orihime, as well as Orihime's dead father paralleling the Sky King in the legend who separates the two.
* In ''Manga/DotHackLegendOfTheTwilight'', the Tanabata festival is an event in The World, where male avatars have to cross a raging river to reach a female avatar and win a "date" with her. Rena ends up being the female, and Shugo tries to win, but is beaten by Balmung.
* ''{{Franchise/Anpanman}}'' has multiple episodes that take place during Tanabata. Each of these episodes feature the characters Negai-hoshi and Kanae-hoshi, twin stars that fly town to grant (most of) the wishes. Some wishes they never grant are Baikinman's (to finally defeat Anpanman) and Dokinchan's (to finally get Shokupanman to reciprocate her love).
* A comedic side story in the ''Manga/SailorMoon'' manga centered around the Tanabata festival.
* [[HoYay Kaworu and Shinji]] are depicted as Orihime and Hikoboshi in ''Anime/RebuildOfEvangelion''. Both Sadamoto’s [[http://17th-angel.tumblr.com/post/39361279568/cake-slice-tanabata-the-meeting-of-the-deities poster]] for Q and Honda’s artwork have set Shinji and Kaworu in a sky full of stars with each under Vega and Altair and with the Milkyway running between them. A direct allusion to the star crossed lovers from the legend and the stars associated with them. Furthermore the official theater booklet for 3.0 held interviews by the Khara staff including Megui Ogata and Akira Ishida that described Kaworu and Shinji as having been linked through “past cycles” and only being able to be around each other for a brief time.
* In the fourth season of ''Anime/OjamajoDoremi'', the Ojamajos meet the real Orihime a few days before Tanabata and have to fix her celestial robes so she can meet Hikoboshi and have the wishes come true.
* The events of ''LightNovel/UnlockCity'' occur on the day of Tanabata (the email Koudai receives hints at it 7 days before), although they continue on long after it's over.

[[AC: Comic Books]]
* The ''ComicBook/UsagiYojimbo'' story "Runaways" explicitly references the myth with [[StarCrossedLovers Usagi and the princess he had fallen for]] even attending the festival.
* In the ''Reflections'' arc of the ComicBook/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicIDW, Princess Celestia's relationship with the King Sombra of the MirrorUniverse is very similar to the folklore, both characters coming from opposite dimensions who can only meet through the use of a magic mirror. On top of that, Mirror King Sombra owns a wishing garden and in this garden, ponies write wishes on paper and hang them on trees much like those who celebrate the festival.

* In the 2010 version of ''Film/TheKarateKid'', Mei Ying invites Dre on a date the night of the Qi Xi festival. They watch a shadow puppet play about the tale of Zhinü and Niulang.

[[AC:Live Action Television]]
* ''Series/KamenRiderDenO'' uses Tanabata as the running theme for [[SixthRanger Kamen Rider Zeronos]]; his two primary forms are called Vega and Altair, and his [[NobleDemon Imagin partner]] is named Deneb and is modeled on tengu (among other things). The theme of StarCrossedLovers also applies to Zeronos' user Yuto Sakurai and his fiance Airi Nogami, [[spoiler:separated because Sakurai is hiding in the timestream to protect their future child, and had to erase Airi's memory to keep her safe too]].
* ''Series/ZyudenSentaiKyoryuger'' has an episode focused around this festival. The MOTW uses this festival as a means to grant the wishes of anyone who wrote on his slips and then kills them the next day due with his powers. Five of the Kyoryugers are hit with this, and it's up to the leader Daigo to stop the MOTW before everyone else dies.

* ''Literature/BridgeOfBirds'': The actions of Master Li and Number Ten Ox become interwoven with the Qi Xi story, although the heroes don't realize this when they first set out.
* Nona celebrates this in the British children's book ''Miss Happiness and Miss Flower.'' Nona's actually Anglo-Indian, but became interested in Japanese culture through her Japanese dolls.
* As a highly romantic story, it has been a popular topic in Chinese and Japanese poetry for centuries.

* Referenced in ''TabletopGame/YuGiOh TCG'' with Stellaknight Bridge. "Satellaknight Altair and "Satellaknight Vega" appear in the artwork.

* ''[[VideoGame/KatamariDamacy We Love Katamari]]'' includes a stage where players roll up all the planets and stars they've created, with the rolling up of the sun as the ultimate objective. This stage includes numerous {{Easter Egg}}s, such as the stars Vega and Altair, on which ride small human forms that shout "Hikoboshi-sama!" and "Orihime!" as you collect them.
** ''Beautiful Katamari'' on the Xbox 360 features a [[DownloadableContent downloadable stage]] called "Lovers' Loom", where you are asked to roll up fabric and wool to make the star Vega. When completed, the King turns your Katamari into a five-pointed star with Orihime and Hikoboshi sitting on the arms.
* Referenced in ''{{VideoGame/Persona 3}}'': after SEES figures out how to predict when certain bosses will appear, Akihiko comments that one upcoming battle will be "a Tanabata special bout". Humorously it's the battle against the Hierophant and Lovers Arcana, [[TarotMotifs which represent tradition and choice or the misuse of tradition and lack of choice]], and also is the [[AliensMadeThemDoIt infamous]] LoveHotel battle.
* The plotline of the story is involved intimately in the background of ''{{VideoGame/Mega Man Star Force}} 2'', and the involved characters have their names maintained appropriately across localizations. [[spoiler: Orihime is the [[LoveHurts main villain]] of the game, and in English is named [[ShownTheirWork Vega]] for the star.]]
** This is complete with [[spoiler:her lover being named Hiko (obviously from Hikoboshi) in Japanese and Altair in English. And mind you, ''they come from Kingdom Tannabata'']]. This, and [[spoiler:Altair being deceased]], makes them a true pair of StarCrossedLovers.
* Jirachi is a star-shaped legendary Franchise/{{Pokemon}} that is supposed to wake up once every thousand years, and people upon seeing it will write wishes that Jirachi will grant onto small pieces of paper and place them on Jirachi's head. Fittingly, it is often distributed in Japan around the time of the Tanabata festival.
* In ''VisualNovel/KatawaShoujo'', Yamaku High School has a festival organized around Tanabata. You only get to see it in Shizune's route, though.
** [[spoiler: Tanabata is heavily discussed in Lilly's route as Hisao promises to take her to the festival. Appropriately, that does not happen because Lilly and Hisao have their own StarCrossedLovers situation. Whether this is permanent depends on the player's actions.]]
*** [[spoiler: If the player manages to get Lilly's Good Ending, Hisao promises to take Lilly to the following Tanabata to make up for missing the previous one, something which Lilly is surprised that Hisao remembered.]]
* While this hasn't been played into plot, yet, ''VideoGame/BlazBlue'''s [[ChineseGirl Litchi Faye-Ling]] had her birthday exactly at the Tanabata day (July 7th). She's also the resident LoveMartyr.
** Or perhaps it has, in a rather dark way. To sum it up, she's trying to save a good friend of hers, Lotte Carmine, from the fate of being a BlobMonster (he's Arakune), except that the road for that has WAY too many problems: nearly ''everyone'' in the world that is good either does not know this or persuade her to just forget about the long-dead Lotte and move on already because it's scientifically impossible (or tell her she's just an egotistical idiot to push on her beliefs), leaving her with nothing but her own self to help him, and then she found out that she is dying with the same corruption so she has limited time, and [[spoiler:the only help available is to help the bad guys, act like she'll reset the world and see many innocents dead thanks to the bad guys' plot just for his sake and destroy her 'kind and good' reputation. She does all that, [[ForcedIntoEvil albeit with a heavy heart]], and we still do not know if it will eventually bear fruit or not up until [[VideoGame/BlazBlueChronophantasma the second last game of the series.]]]]
* In ''VisualNovel/HatofulBoyfriend'', the heroine gets to see the wishes of the [[InterspeciesRomance birds]] she's the closest to at Tanabata and make a wish herself to [[TakeOverTheWorld conquer the world by force]], [[TheManBehindTheMan rule the world from the shadows]], gain the MadLove of a FallenAngel, or [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking become a famous artist]].
* In ''[[GaiaOnline zOMG!]]'', ShrineMaiden Katsumi asks you to deliver an off-season wish to a Wish Tree in Zen Gardens (she is wishing for the safety of others in the Animated attacks). [[spoiler: The wishes in the Wish Tree turn out to be Animated themselves-- but they were created almost completely in goodwill, so [[MySpeciesDothProtestTooMuch they're mostly neutral/benevolent towards humans]].]]
* ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWars'' has two mechas named after the stars of {{Tanabata}}: ''Altair''lion and ''Vega''lion. Their pilots, Ibis Douglas and Sleigh Presty, aren't exactly [[LesYay lovers]], they're more like best friends, but they went through hardships and misunderstandings a lot (especially on Sleigh's side) until they finally understand each other and eventually unite their mecha into Hyperion. This is referenced in ''Second Original Generation'' where the resident mecha {{Otaku}} Ryusei Date noticed the theme naming and asked why Hyperion isn't instead called ''Tanabata''lion, in which his idea gets shot down.
** Also, according to ''Super Robot Wars Alpha 1'', where the character originates from, Kusuha Mizuha (who is the full-blown '''protagonist''' of the ''Alpha'' series and a reasonably important character in the ''Original Generation'' series) was born on Tanabata. In ''OG'', this connection isn't very meaningful or explored, but it ends up being rather more important symbolically in ''Alpha'', in a sense that her boyfriend is kind of a DistressedDude at times and just to reunite with him, Kusuha would go through heaven and hell just so she'd save and reunite with him.
*** Her default ''Alpha'' skillset[[note]]wherein skills are determined by a combination of birthday and blood type[[/note]] even has a subtle joke on Tanabata in it: she has a "spirit" skill which increases her movement speed substantially available for a far lower cost than many other characters. She can cross the otherwise vast distances between people very easily!
* The plot of ''VisualNovel/StarCrossedMyth'' kicks off the evening before Tanabata. After an initial encounter that the protagonist writes off as a dream, she's approached again by six gods of the Western Zodiac during the "Star Festival" event at the planetarium where she works.