Traditions and Race Calendar: What You Need to Know Before You Hit Up the Dragon Boat Festival 2022
by: The Beat Asia
May 31, 2022
Festivals in Hong Kong embody culturally diverse traditions from China and British, giving birth to some of the most unique and visually appealing celebrations.
The annual Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 duan wu Jie), often known as the "start-of-the-fifth-solar-month festival," is one of Hong Kong's most popular traditional festivities. The history of the Dragon Boat festival dates back 2,500 years ago when fishing communities along the Yangtze River in Southern-Central China performed a folk ritual to honour the rain gods and pray for rainfall.
This festival, which takes place every fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese lunar calendar, is brimming with rice dumplings and, of course, decorative boat races. Each long narrow boat has a dragon head, tail, and scales loaded with a team of paddlers who whip the waves to the beat of a drum.
This year, the festival will occur on June 3 (declared as a national holiday in Hong Kong) when watersport summer events are being lined up.
Here are some traditional customs and scheduled events that you should know to celebrate a safe and healthy Dragon Boat Festival.
Zongzi or sticky rice dumplings are made with meats and beans and wrapped in rectangular or triangular shapes in bamboo or reed leaves. It is widely believed that lumps of rice are thrown in the river to stop the fish from eating the body of the famous Chinese scholar, Qu Yuan.
Participating in Dragon Boat Races
During 343 to 278 BC, people used to participate in or attend dragon boat races to help find and rescue the body of Qu Yuan who drowned himself in the river. Other stories say that racing competitions are meant to appease the dragon or water god.
Under the British rule in 1991, the Hong Kong government recognised the impact of dragon racing on the tourism industry in attractingcrowds of international participants and athletes from different countries.
Aside from Hong Kong, other Asian countries that celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival include Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
Mugwort, Calamus, and Realgar Wine
Mugwort leaves and calamus are traditionally hung on doors during the festival. It is believed that these plants can help combat diseases during summer brought by flies and mosquitoes. Aside from its medicinal usage, mugwort and calamus are said to bring good fortune to families.
Meanwhile, drinking realgar wine potentially drives away evils and diseases as it was considered an antidote for many kinds of poisons during ancient times.
Schedule of Dragon Boat Races in Hong Kong
CCB Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races in Victoria Harbour
With an estimated 4,000 athletes from different countries and regions around the world, this is one of the major competitions during the festival with tens of thousands of supporters expected to flock to Victoria Harbour and witness the race on June 3.
Sun Life Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships
Happening on June 3, this dragon boat race led by Stanley will be participated by more than 280 local organisations including companies, universities, and corporations. This year, it is expected that around 30,000 spectators will watch the race while partying at the beach as part of the tradition.
Smaller Dragon Boat Race Competitions
Some local races may have been postponed or rescheduled due to the impact of the recent fifth wave of COVID-19 in Hong Kong. Check out the updated schedule below:
- Tai O – June 3, 2022
- Aberdeen – October 2, 2022
- Sai Kung – September 18, 2022 (provisional date)
- Tai Po – October 16, 2022
- Cheung Chau – To be confirmed
- Sha Tin – Cancelled
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