Dragon Boat Festival
Eat Zong zi and Paddle a Dragon Boat!
Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month. But that's not May 5th. This holiday is calculated according to the lunar calendar.
- 2015 Dragon Boat Festival -- June 20.
- 2016 Dragon Boat Festival -- June 9.
Along with the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival is one of the biggest traditional holidays in China. The origin of this holiday is a bit troubling -- a poet Qu Yuan 屈原 (about 300 BC) killed himself by jumping into the river on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. A very patriotic person, Qu Yuan attracted the wrath of the king by stating his concerns about the govenrment. Later when his country was overrun by enemy solidiers, the ever loyal poet killed himself out of grief for the pain his country was facing.
You may want to be selective about what you share with your children about this holiday, especially if they are sensitive. It's not a very happy story.
The Chinese name of this holiday is Duan Wu Jie 端午节 or "Double Five Holiday."
More of the Dragon Boat Story
The story picks up after Qu Yuan drowned. Local fishermen tried to no avail to get Qu Yuan's body from the river. To protect his body from hungry fish, they threw food into the river to distract them. Today we eat zong zi as a symbol of that food thrown into the river. They splashed the water with their paddles and beat the drums on their long, narrow fishing boats in an attempt to scare off the fish.
In later years, a dragon was added into the story. Fishermen believed there was a water dragon living in the river. After one man poured an urn of strong rice wine into the river, a drunken dragon floated to the surface. Tangled among the whiskers of this water dragon was found a fragment of Qu Yuan's clothing.
Many years later in southern China, dragon boat racing grew to become associated with memorializing Qu Yuan's noble death.
Today, people around the world celebrate Dragon Boat Festival. And dragon boat racing has become a sport of its own, not simply a tradition reserved to Chinese people.
Ideas for Celebrating Dragon Boat Festival
1. Make a dragon boat craft
2. Read a good book about this holiday
3. Eat sticky rice zong zi
4. Make a paper zong zi craft.
5. Make a Dragon Boat Festival lapbook.
This book not only describes the Dragon Boat Festival but explains the modern day sport of dragon boat racing.
Dragon Boat Crafts & Coloring Pages
- Dragon Boat Model
Crayola explains how to make a dragon boat with modeling compound.
- Dragon Boat Festival Coloring Pages
TEN free coloring pages. These are really nice, realistic and authentic style pages
- Boat Paper Model Template
Not particularly for a dragon boat, but could be adapted.
- Dragon Boat Puppets
Another great idea from Crayola.
- British Museum Teacher Resources
There are two great dragon related craft ideas here. Use their templates to make your own original creation!
- Handipoints Dragon Boat Festival Coloring Page
Not only a coloring page but also a reading comprehension exercise.
- Chinese Dragon Board Game
Unfortunately, this printable is available for subscribers only, but it's not hard to make your own after using their idea. In fact, use this head and tail printable from Scholastic and just add the spaces in between.
What is your favorite Chinese holiday?
Zong zi 粽子 are the food associated with Dragon Boat Festival. These delicious "dumplings" are basically glutinous/sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves into a pyramid shape and then steamed. Inside each bundle, the zong zi may be flavored in many different ways. Savory ones include pork, peanuts, egg yolk, or seafood. Sweet zong zi may have red bean paste or dates inside.
Try Eating China for a recipe. It may be a bit difficult to make, so here is a modified recipe that you can do at home to try your hand at zong zi:
Cook some sticky rice according to package directions. Take a ball of warm, salted rice in your hand and make an indention in it. Into the hollow, add your choice of these ingredients: peanuts, bacon bits, egg yolk, chopped dates. Press the sticky rice around the filling, and enjoy!
The food zong zi is as much a part of this holiday as dragon boat racing is! In fact, in areas without waterways, eating zong zi is the main way to celebrate this festival.
Another zong zi activity -- make paper models of zong zi using this pyramid template. Print it on green paper or color the template green. Fill your pyramid with the scrap paper you cut away from the template to keep if from crumpling. Then wrap twine or rafia around it as if tying it shut for steaming! Voila! A paper zong zi craft!