All You Need to Know About Dragon Boat Festival
By: Eric Nelson
Festivals are the joy in a culture that everyone looks forward to. The immense celebrations and colorful artworks bring out the creativity in the community and everyone feels happy. Every festive event has its history, the reasoning of its beginning.
Chinese festivals are one of the most colorful and energetic festivals celebrated by Chinese all over the world. Remember the Chinese New Year? Its celebrations last for more than a week and later the spring festival begins, and on and on. Another annual festival among several others is the Dragon Boat Festival.
The Fifth Day of the Fifth Month of the Lunar Calendar Befalls, Dragon Boat Festival!
A three day holiday will be held from 25 June to 27 June this year. It is a celebration that involves racing Dragon Boats, drinking realgar wine complemented with sticky rice dumplings (zongzi) but there’s a lot to do during the festivities. This festival is all about colors, traditions, and customs that people follow and enjoy a lot.
Origin of Dragon Boat Festival
It happened around 2000 years ago, in southern China, from the tale of the death of a celebrated poet and Minister Qu Yuan who was exiled for treason. Qu committed suicide by drowning in the Miluo River; locals rushed in their boats and dropped sticky rice in the water to prevent fish from eating his body. Hence not every festival has a happy source, to begin with, but since then the tradition of eating sticky rice dumplings and racing Dragon Boats begin.
Hold on a second that’s not it! We are just beginning to share the enticing facts about this lunar festival:
The Dragon Boat Race
If you search the pictures for a dragon boat race on the internet it reminds much of Games of Thrones, but actually, it was just a tradition of a rowing boat that has continued to this day. An impressive spectacle is set, and boats usually are 50 and 100 feet long with a drummer at one hand of the boat to create rhythm with the paddling. Another reason is to keep the crew excited and motivated to row all the way.
Date is Mandatory
Unlike other lunar festivals, the date for the Dragon Boat Festival doesn’t change unlike in the Gregorian calendar. Because of the numerous legends and events like annual flood period and midsummer, the date remained transfixed to avoid any misfortune while people concentrate to pray for good fortune.
Sticky Rice Dumplings
According to the origin, the use of sticky rice dumpling begin as a tradition when villagers threw it in water to save Qu’s body but it may sound shocking to you, the reality is far from the story. Originally known as jiao shu, jiao means “horn” and shu means “grains", was a customary part of sacrificial rituals where rice was placed in cattle horns. Although with time, the horns were replaced with leaves for economic reasons.
UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
UNESCO has played quite a popular role as UNESCO World Heritage Sites; similarly, this is about preserving the cultural heritage. Due to conflicts between South Korea and China, this festival dropped under the protection of UNESCO. South Korea trying to claim this festival as theirs caused an uprising because of which China enlisted the Dragon Boat Festival in the UNESCO list to avoid any major conflicts.
The Intricate Design of Dragon Boats
These boats are long and narrow with a flat bottom, rolling prow, and stern. One should know dragon boats weigh about 1-2 tonnes!
Its decorations are quite complex, made out of teak wood, and with a carved dragon head on the front while the stern resembles the dragon’s tail. It is commonly painted red and assorted with bright colors similar to a dragon’s body.
Unique Realgar Wine
It’s not your regular red wine or even a sherry but an old recipe cut for realgar, a Chinese medicine. Basically, it consists of huangjiu, yellow wine, with a dash of powdered realgar, a yellow-orange arsenic sulfide mineral.
It is believed that vipers and other poisonous creatures are afraid of realgar and therefore it is consumed in large quantities at the peak of festivities.
Use of Calamus and Wormwood
Every festival in China comes with its set of superstitions and value. When it’s about time; the hanging of calamus and wormwood is practiced to cast away bad luck and diseases.
Hanged on the door frame, people also use these herbs to decorate the dragon boats for aroma and wishing the crew good health.
Another decorative accent is the use of a perfume pouch, worn by people during the Dragon Boat Festival. It is filled with vanilla and other herbs believed to drive germs and viruses away during as long as one wears it during the festivities.
Another reason to wear the perfume pouch is that people believe it brings good luck and besides, the aroma is really pleasant.
Five-colored String Bracelet
Colors always come in high regard with the Chinese. Another colorful custom of the festival is wearing a five-color string bracelet.
Green, red, white, black, and yellow are ancient colors praised in China; parents tie the bracelet around children’s wrists and make them wish for long and healthy life. Perfume pouches and the five-color string bracelet are two favorite trends of the festival.
It’s quite common to see dragons in Chinese myths and histories; they have played an integral role in dimensioning power and control in such stories. Dragons are powerful creatures that can control rivers and rainfall especially at the height of summer.
That’s the reason why the dragon’s heads are carved in front of the boats to appease the gods and to prevent droughts with the promise of the rice harvest.
China will never cease to amaze the world, its culture and traditions are most popular in the world and they deserve the popularity too! If you ever get to visit China, make sure you plan near the festival time, so that you can get to enjoy it too.
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