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Dragon Boat Festival 2022

Dragon Boat Festival ( Duan Wu Jie) is a historical Chinese festival celebrated for over 2000 years. This legendary festival is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese year. However, most of the legends behind this festival's commencement are related to one tragedy or the other and mainly associated with boat races as the major event.

It has evolved to be one of the most celebrated and competitive festivals for the Chinese in various parts of SouthEast Asia. These days it is an event that commemorates multi-colored boats, the sound of drums, excitement, racing, and tradition.

In Malaysia, the Dragon Boat Festival 2023 is among those festivals that people are looking forward to celebrating and being optimistic about. It is a tradition that officially started in 1956 in Penang. Penang is also the first place outside of China that hosted the Dragon Boat Festival. This festival is also celebrated in countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, etc.

Origin and History of Dragon Boat Festival

The one thing that is associated with this festival is the famous Dragon Boat Race. Regardless of the legends and stories behind this festival's reason, it all comes down to boats roaming around the lake, which is now turned into a boat race.

The major story behind the Dragon Boat Festival's origin is the death of the famous Chinese poet and state official Chu- Qu Yuan. Being a loyal officer to the King, he wrote several patriotic poems and was heartbroken when the enemies captured the capital city during the Warring States Period.

Qu Yuan could not accept his country's defeat and decided to commit suicide in the Milou River on the 5th day of the 5th month. When people realized what he did, they took their boats in search of his body and roamed around the river for hours.

Later, when they couldn't find his body, they paddled around and drummed loudly to ward off evil spirits and preserve his body in any way that they could. They also resorted to dumping rice to feed the fishes so that they don't feed on his body.

In later years and millennia, on the same day, the boats which came out for the rescue operations later made way to boat races, and the rice that fed the fishes became rice dumplings to make new traditions.

When is Dragon Boat Festival 2023?

The Dragon Boat Festival usually happens in the month of June of the Gregorian Calendar. Though the Chinese follow the lunar calendar, this festival date usually comes in June.

In 2023, this auspicious day will be celebrated on 22nd June.

How is the Dragon Boat Festival celebrated?

The major attraction of this festival is the huge war canoe with a dragon head. These boats are usually made of teak and have a length of up to 40 ft. Each of these boats can seat up to 20-80 paddlers, depending on the size. Once the boat is finished, a bring to life ritual is held where the dragon's eyes are drawn and painted on the boat. After this, the boat is brought out, ready for the race.

There will be a drummer sitting in the middle of the boat, which keeps the rhythm of the peddling. Both the boat and drumming is a way of preserving the traditions from the legends.

The Boat Festival usually lasts all day long. Interestingly, it is also believed that the race and the drums help repel the evil spirits and bring good luck during this time. The evolution of this festival now calls for earring rice dumplings during this time. This festival is also known as the Rice Dumpling Festival or the Bak Chang festival.

Highlights of Dragon Boat Festival 

  • Boat race: Although the Dragon Festival's major event is boat racing, where people from all over Malaysia and from other countries participate, there are also other small traditions that people follow. 
  • Eating rice dumplings: It is not just about eating dumplings, but the special way it is prepared is also traditional. Here the dumplings are made in a pyramid shape, wrapped inside leaves of bamboo or reed plant, and tightly bound using a string. 
  • Realgar wine: It is a tradition to drink realgar wine to ward off evil and as a form of detoxification during the Dragon festival. People also eat five yellow-colored foods in China that usually include cucumber, yellow croaker, eel, wine, and duck eggs/ soybeans. 
  • Colored pouches: Chinese people believe that wearing colorful pouches that carry herbal medicines helps them get away from diseases as the summer season is evil and could easily bring diseases.

There was MCO in June in Penang and other parts of Malaysia in 2021. People must always follow the basic COVID-19 guidelines of keeping away from crowds and wearing masks in public.

How to reach the Dragon Boat Festival venue?

In Malaysia, the venue of the Dragon Boat Festival in Penang. In Penang, the festival happens at the Teluk Bahang Dam with these brightly colored boats.

Penang is connected from all major parts of Malaysia and is easily reachable by bus. Reaching Penang by bus is the most economical option as several bus operators provide their services in all the major as well as remote routes.

The most popular routes that help you reach Penang are,  

The redBus portal allows you to do bus ticket online booking and makes it easier to have a contact-free journey with e-tickets. You can book the tickets through their online portal or through their mobile app.