Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival: Customs and Traditions (Part Two of Two)

Following the legend of Qu Yuan, the famous Chinese man who wrote of his love for his country even after being exiled, the holiday known as the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival was created. It has been celebrated annually for over 2,000 years on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar, to honor and pay respect to the historic poet for his unwavering patriotism.  

The customs and traditions surrounding this culturally significant holiday are still very much alive today. One of the most popular and loved traditions of this day can be found within the name of the festival itself- Dragon boat racing

Dragon boats get their name from the fore and stern being designed in the shape of a traditional Chinese dragon. The race originated after the part in the Qu Yuan legend where the people of the village raced in their boats to save him after he drowned himself in the river. The rowers race to the finish line while one team member sits at the front of the boat and beats a drum, an action thought to preserve morale and keep the rowers in sync with one another. The team that wins is to bring a happy life to the people of their village. 

Like most other Chinese festivals and holidays, a particular food is often consumed by the people on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival. For this festival, the food of choice is Zongzi, a pyramid-shaped glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. Often times, part of the holiday tradition includes not just the family's consumption of the special Zongzi, but also the preparation. 

Besides honoring the great Qu Yuan, another reason behind the celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival is the warding off of diseases and promotion of good health. So the high popularity of the next custom comes as no surprise. On the day of the festival, the Chinese people will clean their houses and then proceed to put mugwort leaves and calamus on the tops of all the doors in the house. The story behind these plants are that the discharge an aroma that will repel bugs and purify the home, thus preventing certain illnesses that often come with warm weather. 

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Another technique on this day purposed at promoting good health and healing is for children to wear five-color silk thread around their wrists, ankles, and neck. The thread is thought to hold special healing properties and protect the children from disease. It is only after the first rain of the summer that they are allowed to remove the thread and throw it into the nearest river. 

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