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Happy Dragon Boat Festival!

There's more to the Double Fifth than Zongzi and Dragon Boats

06·12·2013

The Duanwu Festival originated in Ancient China, and the most popular theory about its origins comes from the suicide of poet Qu Yuan, who lived from 340-278 BC. But the legends of the Dragon Boat Festival are told differently depending on where you are in China, and as our blog on the festivals origins explains, there are a few other legends surrounding the Dragon Boat Festival’s beginnings.

The festival is also known as the Double Fifth because it falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calender, but the day of celebration varies year to year on the Gregorian calender, mostly falling in June like this year, but from time to time occurring at the end of May. Although it has been celebrated annually for over 2,000 years as a cultural festival, the government has only recently recognized Duanwu Festival. In 2008, the festival gained its status as a public holiday, meaning that everyone gets three days off on the week of the Double Fifth. Sounds good right? Well the policy in China is that before holidays everyone works through the weekend, paying the hefty price of a 7 day working week for their days off.

So, you know about Dragon Boats and Zongzi, the most famous traditions of the Duanwu Festival, but there are some other ways people celebrate. Xionghuangjiu (雄黃酒), a type of realgar wine,  is commonly drunk during the festival. More traditionally, people would engage in superstitious activities, such as hanging icons of Zhong Kui — a mythical figure known for warding off ghosts and evil spirits — as well as the plants mugwort and calamus. A traditional activity is the ‘egg stand’ game. People attempt to make an egg stand up at exactly 12 noon, and if they succeed it brings good luck for a year. In Taiwan in 2005, 4247 people took part in a simultaneous egg stand as part of the Duanwu Festival.

Whether you’re using your day off to race a dragon boat, stuff yourself with zongi or just relax, we wish you a happy Dragon Boat Festival!

Image courtesy of Flickr.

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