Dragon Boat Festival is one of the four major cultural holidays in Chinese culture. “Summer is here!” “It is going to get hot.” That is what I heard from my grandmother, my parents, and the neighbors years ago when the Dragon Boat Festival was approaching. It remains the same even today.
What is the Dragon Boat Festival? Let’s look at the fun facts about this fascinating Chinese festival.
1. The Name of This Festival
Dragon Boat Festival is the English translation. The Chinese name used in China and Taiwan is read as duān wǔ jié (pinyin) 端午節 (traditional Chinese) | 端午节 (simplified Chinese). Duān wǔ jié is the official name for this holiday, and it is what Chinese people call it.
2. The Date for the Dragon Boat Festival
People use the lunar calendar for cultural festivals in Chinese culture. Dragon Boat Festival always falls on the 5th day of the 5th month on the lunar calendar. Therefore, the date moves on the Gregorian calendar each year. Here are the dates from now till 2022:
June 25, 2020 || June 14, 2021 || June 3, 2022
3. The Story About the Festival
It is about a beloved poet and a patriotic officer, Qū Yuán in the Warring States (403-340 BC) of China. When the capital of his country was taken over by General Qi from the State of Qing the poet was in exile. He was not able to do anything to help his country.
Qu Yuan heard the news and fell in deep sorrow. He jumped into Mi Loú River and drowned. His followers heard about the tragedy and took the long boats out to rescue him. They beat the drums loudly. They threw rice dumplings into the river to prevent fish from nibble on Qū Yuán’s body.
4. Dragon Boat Race
The boat rescue mission for the poet gradually became the Dragon Boat race we see today to commemorate the patriotic poet and politician. Now, Dragon Boat race is an international event held in China, Taiwan, and international cities. You can watch videos of the Dragon Boat race events to experience the excitement!
5. Rice Dumplings
There was so much going on for the boat rescue mission thousands of years ago. The rice dumplings used back then have transformed into delicate food. There is a name for this rice dumpling. It is called zòng zi.
What is inside zòng zi? I know you are curious, and you need to make a decision if you want to give it a try. Zòng zi has three basic flavors: plain, sweet, and savoy. The must-have ingredients are sticky glutinous rice and long plant leaves such as bamboo leaves.
The filling for the plain one is none. Pure sticky rice. The most common filling for the sweet rice dumplings is sweet pressed red bean. Soft, smooth, and perfect natural sweetness. The fillings for the savory kinds vary. There are pork fillings, and meat, egg, and mushroom mixed fillings.
The cooking methods of rice dumplings have regional differences. Some steam the rice dumplings, and others use water to boil them. No matter how people cook zòng zi rice dumplings, the fragrance of the bamboo leaves and the fillings cannot contain themselves. They fill the air from home to the street. This, in itself, is a gorgeous cultural experience.
6. Fragrance Sachet Necklaces
When parents are shopping for ingredients for rice dumplings in the market in China and Taiwan, kids will see shaped rice dumplings and cartoon figures-styled fragrance sachet necklaces hanging on racks for sale on the street. In Asia, this is the time of the year that mosquitoes, other insects, and even snakes are out.
So these small fragrance sachet necklaces with special herb powder inserts are a way to protect the kids from bug bites. These sachets serve as natural insects repellent. Young children love these. My kids had a chance to make them from scratch with a dear friend and an amazing teacher, Auntie May in Taipei.
7. King 王 Word on Kids’ Foreheads
On the day of the Dragon Boat Festival, you might also see young kids running around with a King wáng 王 Chinese character in yellow on their foreheads. In the old times, the yellow color is a mix of realgar powder and rice wine. At that time, people used realgar wine as a natural insect repellent. In recent years, realgar is no longer in use for this tradition due to health reasons.
8. Placing Wormwood Leaves on the Door
They are not just any leaves but special ones like wormwood leaves and calamus leaves. You see bouquets of the plants on display in the market. Families purchase them to place the plants on the front door to prevent insects and cleanse.
9. The Folktale of the White Snake
With all the natural insect repellents used during this time in ancient China, out came a folktale of the White Snake. It is a love story between a snake and a human. This is a story that is so enchanting that it has been adapted to numerous versions in Chinese opera, dramas, and movies.
10. The Finale: Stand the Eggs
Here we go. Ready? At 12:00 noon on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival, there is a huge event for everyone in the Chinese community. Now your family can try it, too.
This exciting event is to stand the eggs at noon on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. According to tradition, this is the best day and time of a year to stand the eggs. If you can stand the egg at noon on the Dragon Boat Festival you will have the best luck for the year. Chinese people love everything auspicious so this is definitely a great finale for the day.
Scientifically, it is the easiest time to stand the egg because this date is close to the summer solstice. But, why? When summer solstice arrives, the earth’s axis tilts the most toward the sun. That means the sun is positioned in the farthest north at noontime. On the day of the Dragon Boat Festival, at noon, the gravitation between the sun and the earth pulling each other is at its strongest stretch. That is why standing an egg becomes easier.
If you want to join the Stand Egg event on Dragon Boat Festival, stay tuned and join me! Happy Dragon Boat Festival!
Share this fabulous world cultural festival with one family and ask them to share it with another family. We are living in a global community, and our understanding of each other starts from small things like a cultural festival. It is merely the beginning of a connection to a culture, its people, and community around us. From there, our kids see the world from what we share with them. We open doors for them to embrace the differences and similarities in the world. They become the agent of change to connect with the world with the eyes of respect.
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