What is the Dragon Boat Festival and what food do people eat to celebrate the day?

Chinese children celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival
Children race dragon boats made of waste cartons to welcome the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival (Picture: Song Haicun/VCG via Getty Images)

 

Today, 25 June, is the day of the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival.

Also known as the ‘Fifth Month Festival’, the ‘Fifth Day Festival’ and the ‘Dumpling Festival’, the celebrations take place on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar Chinese calendar each year.

If you want to learn more about the festival then read on, because we’ve got what you need to know about where this traditional holiday comes from and what people do and eat to celebrate.

The Dragon Boat Festival is thought to have originated from the legend of the death of the poet and politician Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River in 278 BC.

It’s not known for sure exactly why Qu Yuan did this, but one version of the story has it that it was because he despaired over the state of politics in his homeland of Chu.

However some historians argue that it was because he believed it was a way to keep his innocence intact.

Chinese Welcome Dragon Boat Festival
People compete in a dragon boat race on Li Canal (Picture: Yu Ping/VCG via Getty Images)

 

The reasons for his death aside, the legend then has it that local people jumped in their boats to retrieve his body, and those not in boats threw dumplings into the water and beat drums to scare the fish away from his remains.

Hense the traditions of racing boats and eating zongzi (rice) dumplings to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival today.

Since the festival is marked on the fifth day of the fifth Chinese calendar month, it is also the tradition in Guangdong and Hong Kong to eat foods associated with the number five, such as congee (a rice dish) made with five different types of beans.

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