Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and together with Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival forms one of the three major Chinese holidays. Since the summer is a time when diseases most easily spread, Dragon Boat Festival began as an occasion for driving off evil spirits and pestilence and for finding peace in one's life. The festival was later enriched by the legend of the patriot Chu Yuan.
Dragon Boat Festival is highlighted by the dragon boat races, in which competing teams drive their boats forward rowing to the rhythm of pounding drums. This lively and colorful tradition has continued unbroken for centuries to the present day.
The festival's significance as a time for warding off evil and disease is symbolized by a number of customary practices such as hanging calamus and moxa on the front door, and pasting up pictures of Chung Kuei (a nemesis of evil spirits). Adults drink hsiung huang wine and children are given fragrant sachets, both of which are said to possess qualities for preventing evil and bringing peace. Another custom practiced in Taiwan is "fetching noon water," in which people draw well water on the afternoon of the festival in the belief that it will cure illness. And if you can successfully stand an egg on its end exactly at 12:00 noon, then the coming year will be a lucky one.
The most popular dish during Dragon Boat Festival is tzung tzu, originally eaten in memory of the patriot Chu Yuan, but gradually evolving into a snack eaten during normal occasions as well.
Of all the major holidays celebrated in China, Dragon Boat Festival has the longest history. Occurring at the beginning of summer when insects thrive, the festival was distinguished from other occasions in earlier days as a time for reminding family members to take care of their health. The Chinese continue to heed this wisdom, however, by replacing the traditional customs of hanging calamus and moxa, drinking hsiung huang wine, and giving sachets, with more advanced methods for protecting one's health.