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Dragon Boat Festival: A Guide To Celebrating It

Dragon boat festival is a traditional festival celebrated by the Chinese. It has been around for many centuries now, and its roots go as far back as the Han dynasty. While the festival is still commonly celebrated by the Chinese today, it has also spread to other countries, like Singapore and Vietnam.

Every year, the dragon boat festival is observed on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. What started out as an occasion to remember legendary heroes has now become a ritualistic festival where people pay tribute to their ancestors, particularly water spirits and dragons. But why is the dragon boat festival so important? Read on to find out more about this festival.

Names of Dragon Boat Festival

Names of Dragon Boat Festival

The Duanwu Festival is the Chinese name for the Dragon Boat Festival, which is celebrated annually in China on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. This festival commemorates Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet and official who committed suicide by drowning himself in the Yi River as a form of protest against corruption and tyranny by the emperor of China, Houfei.

1. Dragon Boat Festival

This traditional Chinese event is known as the Dragon Boat Festival, or Longzhou Jie in Chinese, due to its strong ties to dragon boats. Dragons are of great cultural value to the Chinese people. To honor this festival, two main activities are conducted: consuming zongzi (rice dumplings) and participating in boat races – both of which are connected to dragons.

2. Duanwu Jie

The Dragon Boat Festival is referred to as Duanwu Jie in Mandarin Chinese. ‘Duan’ translates to ‘start’ while ‘wu’ symbolizes ‘noon,’ but also identifies the fifth month of the traditional Chinese calendar (between June 6 – July 6), which coincides with the summer solstice. As ‘the month of noon’ is regarded as the middle point of summer, Duanwu Jie is interpreted as ‘the commencement of mid-summer festivities.’

3. Double Fifth Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is commemorated on the fifth lunar month fifth day. Thus, it is also called the “Double Fifth Festival.” Learn why this specific day is chosen to celebrate the festival.

Why Is Dragon Boat Festival So Important?

Dragon Boat Festival 04

Dragon boat festival is an important Chinese traditional holiday. It is celebrated to commemorate the life and death of Qu Yuan, a renowned scholar from ancient China. The festival commemorates the end of the Warring States period in 476 BC when Qu Yuan led the people of Chu State in protesting the oppressive rule of the powerful Kingiquan. As part of the festival, people eat zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) and race dragon boats. Dragon boat racing has gained popularity as a sport around the world and is used to promote cultural exchanges among people. By taking part in the dragon boat festival, people can learn about different civilizations and cultures around the world. Additionally, it is a chance for everyone to celebrate together and make memories that will last forever.

The Origins of the Dragon Boat Festival

The most renowned is in observance of Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan (340–278 BC) was a devoted poet and banished public servant during the Warring States Period of old China. He plunged into the Miluo River on the 5th day of the 5th Chinese lunar month, when his beloved Chu State was conquered by the State of Qin. Desperately, people in that area attempted to rescue Qu Yuan or find his corpse, yet with no success.

To commemorate Qu Yuan, people beat drums and paddle out in boats on the river as they once did to keep fish and evil spirits away from their bodies every fifth day of the fifth lunar month. 

How Do People Celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival?

On this day, people typically take part in dragon boat races, enjoy various types of zongzi (sticky rice wrapped in leaves), and hold dragon dances for entertainment. To honor the memory of Qu Yuan, a loyal minister who drowned himself in the river, people also throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the water as an offering to his spirit. On this day, dragons ascend to heaven, and divine blessings are sent down to earth. People usually gather with their families and friends to celebrate the festival while wearing traditional Chinese clothes such as red shirts and skirts. At night they may light fireworks or fly colorful kites, which symbolize good luck for them in the coming year.

1. Eating Sticky Rice Dumplings

Dragon Boat Festival 03

During the Dragon Boat festival, people celebrate by eating zongzi or sticky rice dumplings. These dumplings are made with sticky rice, meat, and vegetables and can be steamed or boiled. The shape of the dumplings is said to resemble a boat, and they are meant to honor Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet. 

2. Participating In or Attending Dragon Boat Races

Dragon Boat Festival 02

Dragon boat racing is the central activity of the festival and is often held in large bodies of water such as rivers or lakes. The boats are typically decorated with colorful flags and are often adorned with ornate dragon heads affixed to the front. Races typically start at sunrise and can last for several hours, with spectators cheering on their favorite teams. Some people also participate in other activities like dragon boat drumming, which is believed to bring good luck to a team’s performance.

The Boat festival is celebrated throughout China, but the traditions vary from region to region. In some areas, people participate in dragon boat races by taking part in other activities like dragon boat drumming or by eating traditional foods like zongzi (a type of dumpling) during the races. Other people celebrate the festival by participating in cultural activities, spending time with family and friends, or by watching the races from shore. The festival celebrates tradition and while providing an opportunity to engage in healthy physical activity and celebrate local culture.

3. Hanging Chinese Mugwort and Calamus

The third way to celebrate the Dragon boat festival is to hang Chinese mugwort and calamus. These plants are believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck in the coming year. Traditionally, mugwort and calamus have been hung around the house or in boats, symbolizing protection from harm. People may also make sachets filled with plants and hang them around their necks for added protection. The festival is celebrated all over Asia, but most notably in China.

4. Drinking Realgar Wine

Drinking Realgar Wine

The Dragon boat festival is celebrated differently in different parts of the world. In some areas, people celebrate by drinking realgar wine, while in others, they engage in dragon boat racing. The Realgar wine is an important part of the festival, as it is believed that drinking it will bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. The wine is traditionally served in a bowl-shaped cup made from bamboo or wood. It’s also common to eat delicious snacks and desserts during the festival, such as sweet rice balls with red bean paste and steamed puffed yams. Another popular activity during the festival is dragon boat racing, with teams competing for prizes and honor. Overall, the dragon boat festival celebrates the importance of teamwork, perseverance, and Hard work.

5. Wearing Perfume Pouches

The Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the fifth lunar month fifth day. One popular activity during this festival is to wear perfume pouches. These special pouches are filled with aromatic herbs and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and more. They are believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to those who wear them. During the festival, people often wear these pouches around their necks or hang them from their clothing. 

Dragon Boat Festival Greetings

Dragon Boat Festival 05

The Boat Festival is a traditional festival that celebrates the life of Qu Yuan, an ancient Chinese poet. People eat zongzi, race dragon boats, and exchange greetings such as “Wishing you good health.” Giving small gifts such as jewelry, sweets, or flowers is also customary as tokens of appreciation. 


When you’re celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival, you should also send festival greetings to your loved ones. After all, it’s the festival of good fortune and luck, and it deserves to be celebrated with family and friends. Like in any festival, dragon boat festival wishes are a great way to show appreciation for someone’s well wishes. You can use festival quotes and poems to inspire others or brighten their day.

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