Article by Martin Zhao
What is Dragon Boat Festival?
Dragon Boat Festival is one of the many traditional festivals that are celebrated in China. The day falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Lunar Calendar, meaning that it will fall on a different day every year on the Gregorian calendar, usually coming at the end of May or the beginning of June. The holiday is said to originate from the death of a Warring States Period scholar from the state of Chu, who’s opposition to a treaty with Qin was ignored and when the state was subsequently invaded by Qin, he committed suicide out of loyalty and sadness. Since then, the holiday has become widely celebrated across China. Today, as a local, I would like to share with you what the locals usually do during Dragon Boat Festival.
- Hang 艾草 on the Front Door.
It is a tradition for the locals to hang 艾草 or Artemisia on the front door during the Dragon Boat Festival. When hanging it, the earlier the better, as it is said that艾草 is able to exorcise the evil spirits and prevent disease and the fifth month is considered to be an unlucky month. The longer you leave it up the better as well.
Traditionally, on the first day of Dragon Boat Festival, locals will clean the room before hanging 艾草 over the door so that it will be cleansed of evil spirits and prevent them from reentering.
艾草 is actually is a component in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Its stems and leaves contain volatile aromatic oil, the smell produced can keep the mosquitos away, refresh, and purify the air.
- Make or Buy 粽子ZongZi
(especially from Lao Ma at Jian Dong Street or from the Muslim quarter)
The general way to make ZhongZi.
a) Soak the leaves for the wrappers for around 2 hours;
b) Wash and then soak your glutinous rice for at least 3 hours;
c) Wash your red dates;
d) Make the red bean paste;
e) Fold the leaves into a cone, and stuff with the glutinous rice, red dates, red bean paste etc. with the majority being rice and the fillings at the center;
f) Wrap and tie the Zongzi and put them into a pot with water and boil for an hour
- Enjoy green bean cakes.
Normally it gets quite hot when Dragonboat occurs, and it is believed that green bean cakes can help you cool down.
One of the most popular green bean cake makers is Jun Jun in the Muslim Quarter.
It is also a tradition to bring some green bean cakes to your parents-in-law during the festival.
- Wear a Colored Rope and Scented Sachet
Approaching the Dragon Boat Festival the locals would weave different colors of threads into a rope. Some people will wear these on their wrists right before the holiday for good luck.
In addition to this, some people like to make a scented sachet. With vanilla, angelica and realgar mixed together as scented powders inside a pouch made of silk. The sachet is believed to be able to exorcise the evil spirits and prevent disease.
- Dragon Boat Races
Of course, it would be difficult to talk about Dragon Boat Festival without mentioning Dragon Boats. Dragon Boat Racing purported dates back more than 2000 years, though its place as a modern sport began as in 1976. In the races, colorful boats with dragon heads and tails are piloted by teams of 8-10 rowers, with a drummer in each boat to keep time and a helmsman to steer. Larger boats are sometimes used as well, and races can vary in distance, from 200M to 2000M, though 500M is the most common course. Since Dragon Boat Festival was added to the list of official holidays in mainland China in 2007, dragon boat races have become increasingly more common.