Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional holiday originated in China and occurs near the summer solstice. The festival now occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese calendar, which is the source of the festival’s alternative name, the Double Fifth Festival.
Why is the Dragon Boat Festival celebrated?
Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet in China’s Warring States Period (475 – 221 BC), sacrificed himself for his country on the fifth day of May in the lunar calendar, so it is widely accepted that Duanwu Festival is observed to commemorate him. Besides, people also celebrate the day to commemorate Wu Zixu, a statesman of the late Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BC), and the filial daughter, Cao E of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 220 AD). In Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces, people even attach the festival to the modern poet, Qiu Jin, who was martyred for revolutionary activities.
Zongzi is the most important food of the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival.
Also known as sticky rice dumplings, it got popular when people threw zongzi into the Miluo River to protect Qu Yuan’s body from being gnawed by fish. Nowadays, Zongzi comes in great variety in terms of shapes and flavors. Wufangzhai Zongzi, Daoxiangcun Zongzi and Godly Zongzi are famous brands in China. When the festival day is approaching, Chinese will buy Zongzi, or make some on their own. They will also give them out to relatives, friends and employees as the Dragon Boat Festival gifts.
Dragon boat race is a time-honored custom of the festival.
The race is derived from worshiping activities for totem pole dragons in ancient China, and it was fixed as a practice to commemorate Qu Yuan later. With a history over 2,000 years, it has become an international sporting event.
9 Fun Dragon Boat Festival Facts
1. If it rains on the festival day, it would be an omen for a poor harvest, whereas a sunny day indicates a flourishing and prosperous year in any aspects of life.
2. To avoid the evil spirits, a married daughter will return to her parents’ home and spend the festival with their families together.
3. Dragon Boat Festival was actually a Health Day in the past, for people would clean their house and take an herb water bath which helped to prevent against skin diseases.
4. Before the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207 BC), the fifth day of the fifth lunar month was regarded as an evil day, and Chinese people would hang calamus and mugwort leaves on their door frame to dispel away pests and other poisonous animals, such as snakes, scorpions, centipedes, geckos and toads. Carrying perfume pouches could also protect one from insect bites and other skin problems.
5. Drinking realgar wine during the festival day is an old custom, and kids’ cheek and forehead will also be rubbed with the liquid. In fact, there are tiny toxins in the wine, so it is not proper to over drink or drink after it is heated.
6. According to the superstition, the water in a well is poisonous on that day, so people should prepare enough water in advance and avoid drawing water from a well in Duanwu Festival.
7. What do you eat on the Dragon Boat Festival apart from Zongzi? People also customarily have eels, eggs boiled with garlic and tea, Jiandui (a kind of fried glutinous rice cakes) and Dagao Cakes(made by hammering the boiled sticky rice into paste).
See more about Dragon Boat Festival Food
8. An old tradition is that people living in rural areas would go to pick the herb medicine on the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, for it is believed that herbs collected on that day have the best medical effect.
9. Wearing a five-color string bracelet is also a popular tradition for kids, which can be an appeal to prosperity and good health. The five colors are composed of green, white, yellow, red and black. They need to cast it away in the first rain after the Dragon Boat Festival
The Gregorian calendar is not exact, but it usually falls in June. Hereunder is a table of festival dates for recent years.