Today is Dragon Boat Festival! This Chinese holiday has been around for over 2000 years and is meant to commemorate a famous Chinese poet, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in a river on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar (kind of morbid I know).
Dragon boat races:
When Qu Yuan drowned, boats were sent out into the river in hopes of finding him but unfortunately, they were not able to recover his body. This is the reason why there are dragon boat races every year during this time to signify the boats that were sent out.
Dragon boat races are team sports where team members paddle together to the sound of a beating drum. The boats are also painted and shaped as a dragon. I remember my parents used to bring me to watch the races along False Creek.
Chinese sticky rice dumplings:
As a tradition, Chinese sticky rice dumplings (called zhong in Cantonese) are made and eaten during this time. They're wrapped in bamboo leaves, made with sticky rice, and the savoury ones are stuffed with meats and beans while the sweet ones are stuffed with red bean, goji berries and/or red dates. The significance behind these dumplings is that they were little rice balls were thrown into the river when people were looking for Qu Yuan's body in hopes that fish would eat the sticky rice instead of his body (also not the most comforting thought).
As a kid, I remember I would sit next to my grandma as she wrapped them with bamboo leaves and tie them with string. Sometimes she would even let me help her wrap.
I'm going to be devouring some Chinese sticky dumplings this weekend and I hope you'll get a chance to try some too! They can be found at T&T Supermarkets or most Asian markets in Vancouver until the end of the weekend.