The Dragon Boat Festival, also called the Double Fifth Festival, is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month according to the Chinese calendar. For thousands of years, the festival has been marked by eating zong zi (glutinous rice wrapped to form a pyramid using bamboo or reed leaves )and racing dragon boats.
The festival is best known for its dragon-boat races, especially in the southern provinces where there are many rivers and lakes. This regatta commemorates the death of Qu Yuan , an honest minister who is said to have committed suicide by drowning himself in a river.
The people of Chu who mourned the death of Qu threw rice into the river to feed his ghost every year on the fifth day of the fifth month. But one year, the spirit of Qu appeared and told the mourners that a huge reptile in the river had stolen the rice. The spirit then advised them to wrap the rice in silk and bind it with five different-colored threads before tossing it into the river.
During the Duanwu Festival, a glutinous rice pudding called zong zi is eaten to symbolize the rice offerings to Qu. Ingredients such as beans, lotus seeds , chestnuts , pork fat and the golden yolk of a salted duck egg are often added to the glutinous rice. The pudding is then wrapped with bamboo leaves, bound with a kind of raffia and boiled in salt water for hours.
The dragon-boat races symbolize the many attempts to rescue and recover Qu’s body. A typical dragon boat ranges from 50-100 feet in length, with a beam of about 5.5 feet, accommodating two paddlers seated side by side. Dragon boat races in long, thin, canoe-like boats often sporting the head of a dragon on the prow, are a southern Chinese tradition.
Except eating zong zi and dragon-boat races Chinese people also cleaning the house on that day. The Dragon Boat Festival is also a cleaning festival. It is traditional for people to clean their houses on this day. It is also considered important to put up some leaves of mugwort or cattail on either side of the door, spray realgar water, and drink realgar liquor. These things are thought to prevent rot and kill bacteria to stop the spread of diseases.
Experts say, the Dragon Boat Festival custom began in China, the spring and autumn and warring states period, has more than 2000 years of history. But today, Dragon Boat Festival is still a very popular and grand festival among Chinese people.