What is the Dragon Boat Festival?
Amy Ng

Dozens of colorfully painted boats carved into the shape of dragons soaring through water. That’s one of the most popular images that come up when thinking about the Dragon Boat Festival. The traditional holiday, with its roots found in China, is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar. Because of this, the Dragon Boat Festival occurs on a different day each year on the standard calendar we all use today—this year it will fall on May 30.

Dragon Boat Race

There are many traditions, stories, and superstitions that are a part of the festival. For example, there are many origin stories of how the Dragon Boat Festival started. The one that my family told me growing up features a very loyal patriot, poet, and strategist named Qu Yuan who was and advisor to a king during the Warring States period of Chinese history. During this time, however, the king was very proud and corrupt and he refused to take Qu Yuan’s advice. When Qu Yuan expressed disapproval, the king exiled the advisor. But because of the decisions of the king, Qu Yuan’s kingdom was soon conquered. The event devastated Qu Yuan and he committed suicide by jumping into the Milou river. Qu Yuan’s daughter, who was worried about her father’s body being eaten away by fish and shrimp, went to the river every day to throw rice in to feed the aquatic animals so they would leave Qu Yuan’s body alone. She wrapped the rice in bamboo leaves to keep it from scattering in the water, and thus, the tradition of eating zhongzi, a sticky rice ball with filling wrapped in bamboo leaves, was born.


Similar to how the festival has many different origin stories, there are many names for the festival. One of which is the “Double Five” festival. It is named so not just because of the date it corresponds to on the lunar festival, but also because of the warming temperature; it is the time in which the traditional five poisonous animals come out of hiding from winter. The five creatures are the centipede, snake, spider, toad, and scorpion. It is custom to drink and sprinkle a special kind of hard wine, called xion huang jiu, which supposedly wards off these venomous beasts. The wine is made out of a special kind of herb that these animals allegedly avoid. So by drinking this wine during the festival, it is believed to ward of bad luck and spirits.

Of all of the superstitions and traditions of the Dragon Boat festival, my favorite is balancing raw eggs so that it “stands” on a flat surface. It is supposedly only something that can be done during the Festival. The best time to attempt the feat is at high noon on the day of the celebration. If you are able to balance the egg, then you will have good luck for the rest of the year. And if eggs are too easy, apparently, brooms are also able to be balanced too, handle side down.

Balancing Eggs


So this year, between watching the Dragon Boat race and eating delicious zong zi , you can also try to bring good luck in for the rest of the year with a simple egg.