Unpacking The Dragon Boat Festival 2021

The Chinese lunar calendar ushers on the fifth day of the fifth month today. This day is important because it marks the day of the Dragon Boat Festival celebrations that have taken place for millennia. 

The 2021 Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the Duanwu festival, takes place in Hong Kong today. This festival has been part of Chinese cultural celebrations for as long as man can remember.

We often celebrate Western holidays all over the world and do not learn much about other cultures. As a result, we have decided to take a look at the details of the Dragon Boat Festival in honor of the festival today. 

The Dragon Boat Festival Origins

Photo by Samuel Wong on Unsplash

The Dragon Boat Festival is a celebration that takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese lunar calendar. According to legend, this festival honors Chu Yuan’s tragic death in 288 BC.

Chu Yuan was a poet and a minister of the state during the Warring States times. At this time, the ruling king was captured during a fight, inspiring Yuan to write a poem called ‘Li Soa’ in his honor and remembrance. 

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

Unfortunately, Yuan’s poem offended the new king, who in turn ordered Chu Yuan into exile. Instead, Chu Yuan threw himself into the Mi-Lo river, causing his supporters to rush down the river in an effort to save him. 

Legend has it that Yuan’s supporters beat drums to scare away flesh-eating fish and threw dumplings in the river to save him. Although they were unable to save him, the festival honors their efforts to this day. 

How The Festival Is Celebrated

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As mentioned above, the Dragon Boat Festival honors and symbolizes the attempts people made to save Chu. The festival celebrations include dragon boat races that take place in Hong Kong and last all day. 

The celebrations are kicked off with a sacred ritual where the eyes are painted on the boats to ‘bring them to life.’ These boats are large war canoes with dragon’s heads carved into the bows and tails at the stern. 


Dragon boats can seat from 20 to 80 people and can be as long as 100 feet. A drummer sits in the middle of each boat and keeps the time of the strokes with his drum, and a gunshot sets the boats off to the race. 

The sounds of drums and cymbals fill the harbors all day as civilians sing and root for their teams. Those who participate believe that the festival ushers in good luck during the summer months and that it repels evil. 

The Dragon Boat Festival Around The World


There are six sites in Hong Kong that participate in the Dragon Boat festivals, but they aren’t the only ones. Many participants around the world get to celebrate the festival a week after the Hong Kong festivities. 

The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in cities all over the United States during this time. Some Dragon Boat Festival participating locations in the United States include Boston, Colorado, and New York. 

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Many other Asian countries also celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, with Taiwan, China, and Macau celebrating today. Additionally, 68 countries are members of the International Dragon Boat Federation. 

We hope all of those who celebrate have a fantastic time during their Dragon Boat Festivities. Good luck to all of those participating during today’s races and to those who will be celebrating around the world later.

Written by:
Siba Mosana

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