Dragon Boat Festival Celebrations
Brimming with a multitude of colours, plentiful cuisine, and centred around an incredible dragon boat race, the dragon boat festival is the epicentre for the Chinese. Rendered a public holiday in China, the millions who populate the nation flock out in the thousands to celebrate this long standing tradition and it’s no surprise when the festival embodies a vibrant and lively atmosphere.
Why is the dragon boat race celebrated?
With traditions that date back almost 2000 years and wild stories that circulate regarding the origins of this spectacular event, there is no surprise that there are multiple versions of the history behind this festival. The most popular version narrates the death by suicide of the poet and minister Qu Yuan after being exiled for opposing an alliance. It is believed that the locals who admired him raced out to the river in boats in an attempt to save him or at the very least retrieve his body. When they could not do so, they proceeded to drop sticky rice balls into the river believing that the fish would eat the food instead of Qu Yuan’s body. Hence, the origin of Zongzi along with the dragon boat race.
Superstition also heavily shrouds this festival. The 5th lunar month is considered unlucky among the Chinese and many believe that it brings with it chains of misfortune and illnesses along with the arrival of 5 poisonous creatures. Over time, traditions evolved in an attempt to drive away evil spirits. The tradition of hanging Calamus flowers along with garlic on the 5th of this lunar month has been practiced for centuries and one belief is that the dragon boat festival was also originally commemorated for this very same reason.
How is the festival celebrated:
1. The dragon boat race
Embedded in the rich history of ritualistic traditions, dragon boat racing is the most well-known and featured tradition of the festival. With drums beating harmoniously in the background and people crowding the banks of the river, wooden boats shaped as Chinese dragons race down the rivers and win for the country. The prize? A year of good luck and a happy life.
2. Zongzi and realgar wine
Traditionally wrapped in bamboo, lotus or banana leaves, this beautiful aromatic sticky rice ball is a staple during the festival. Stuffed with either sweet or savoury fillings, Zongzi can be filled with anything from roasted beef all the way to dates and nuts. As a symbol of good luck and to drive away bad spirits, the Chinese traditionally make this dish and drink realgar wine with family and friends during the dragon boat festival.
3. 5 coloured silk threaded braid + perfume pouches
Woven intricately with colourful threads, parents often adorn their children’s’ wrists on the dragon boat festival with these braids as a form of protection along with pouches stuffed full of perfumes and medicinal herbs. These are vital forms of protection in the Chinese culture.
How to celebrate the festival at home:
With China sitting miles away from many of us and tickets costing hundreds of pounds, jumping on a flight to attend the festival isn’t the most practical solution. However, that’s not to say we can’t bring the fun into our own homes. Here are some ways you can bring the festive spirit into your homes and celebrate the vibrant spirited Chinese culture:
1. Make Zongzi
Fill up your home with the sweet aromas of this extravagant dish and get the family involved. This is fun process of wrapping and filling bamboo, lotus or banana leaves, with aromatic sticky rice ball and stuffed with either sweet or savoury fillings from roasted beef all the way to dates and nuts. We are confident that however you make it, the kids will enjoy it. This dish is filling and fun to make and it brings the tantalising Chinese cuisine along with a dose of good luck right into our humble abodes.
2. Make your own perfume pouches
Easy and fun to make, these can be made with plants from your garden and scraps of fabric you have lying around. Some plants we highly recommend are lavender, rosemary and thyme and basil. With multiple healing properties and a beautiful scent that accompanies them, these are some of the most beneficial and easily sourced plants include in your perfume pouches. Additionally add orange peel for a nice aroma. They can be hung in your room or stored away in your cupboard and they are so simple to make. Simply sow the pouch and stuff with your favourite herbs before sealing with a final stitching.
3. Make your own braided bracelets
Following the creative pattern, packed full of colour and creativity, these bracelets are beautiful to adorn your wrists with. Originally believed to drive away evil spirits and a beautiful symbol of the Chinese culture, these bracelets are the perfect way for you to bring the festive Chinese spirit into your life. You simply require your choice of 3-5 different coloured strings, tie a knot at one end and braid away.
This Chinese festival is full of life and can be celebrated all around the world. Educate and celebrate, but most importantly enjoy!