China’s cultural traditions: Dragon Boat Festival – one of the big four

May 31, 2022 |

Dragon Boat Festival is one of four main Chinese traditions. If you have been to China during this period, it is hard to miss. You would notice the decorations, gift-giving, as well as an increased level of traveling, mainly within the country.

In 2022, the Dragon Boat Festival will take place on Friday the 3rd of June and last until Sunday the 5th of June, these three days are also public holidays in China.

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The Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival has many different names, some sources claim up to 20 different. In Mandarin, the festival is called Duanwu Jie or Longzhou Jie, it can also be referred to as the “Double Fifth Festival”, or as we call it here – The Dragon Boat Festival.
The reason for the name “Double Fifth Festival” is precise because the festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.
The Dragon Boat Festival is not only a tradition in China, it is also celebrated in many other parts of Asia, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

The history behind The Dragon Boat Festival

There are many different explanations and stories about the origin of The Dragon Boat Festival. The most common and popular one today is the story about the poet and politician Qu Yuan.

Qu Yuan, who lived in China from 340-278 BC, was popular among the people for his rightfulness and honesty. But in desperation of an ongoing war, he chose to take his own life by throwing himself into a river. The locals tried to save him by reaching out to his body with small boats.  Unfortunately, they came too late and his life couldn’t be saved. To protect his body, they throw Zongzi, hit with oars and drums to lure away and disturb fish from eating out of his body.

How to celebrate The Dragon Boat Festival?

Two strong traditions associated with the Dragon boat festival are eating Zongzi (rice dumplings) and boat races. Both traditions are related to dragons and can be traced back to the story of Qu Yuan.

Zongzi is rice dumplings with fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves. The flavors may differ depending on the region. Zongzi is popular as gifts, preferably homemade and nicely packaged.

The fifth month of the Chinese calendar has traditionally been a month of bad luck and disease. Therefore another costume is to decorate your front door with warm wood and calamus. These plants were considered to keep evil spirits, diseases, and bad luck away. Many people, especially children were small bags of perfume for the same reason.

During this period people also choose to travel, mainly within the country. This year, of course, covid affects the situation, but if you look at previous years, you can see that tourism is increasing during this period, especially in bigger cities.

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Market your brand during Dragon Boat Festival?

Sponsor The Dragon Boat race, or why not create a limited product linked to the festival?

Dragon Boat Festival is a good opportunity to connect and create a relationship with your followers/customers. One way can be to create a limited gift or product linked to the festival.

A good example is Starbucks, they have created a gift bag to purchase if buying a certain amount of Zongzi.

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Gain visibility by sponsoring Dragon boat races. The dragon boat race is very popular in China, both to participate in and to observe! There are many opportunities here, especially in sports brands!

If you look at Western brands, many have managed to create a relationship with their customers during specific traditions and holidays. So, shouldn’t you try to do the same with your Chinese customers? Just show your customers that you understand and know their tradition.


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