June festivals: China’s Dragon Boat Festival

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By Karen Hartwriter

Explore a Chinese festival and encourage children to write acrostic poems.

Dragon boats

The Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday commemorating the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan. The festival is also known as the ‘Double Fifth’ as it traditionally falls on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese lunar calendar (June).

Dragon boats are long, narrow man-powered boats with a dragon’s head at the front and a tail at the back, and are often beautifully decorated. During Duanwu it is traditional to eat special rice dumplings called zongzi, drink realgar wine and attend dragon boat races. People hang small bunches of mugwort and calamus plants over doorways which are thought to fend off disease. Children wear small perfumed pouches containing sweet-smelling herbs, and adults tie a five-coloured silk thread bracelet around their wrist for good luck.

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