It’s nearly that time of year again when lavishly adorned boats take to the water in a rollicking festival of athletics, community, good luck and Chinese culture. June 22nd marks the annual Dragon Boat Festival for 2023, and Vancouver is the best place to experience it.
For the uninitiated, the Dragon Boat Festival is a yearly boat race that commemorates the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan. Legend has it that, before Qu died, several of his admirers took to the river to try and save him, thus kicking off a centuries-old ritual. Along the way, the Dragon Boat Festival has become a way to ward off the bad luck associated with mid-June (five is an unlucky number in Chinese culture – and June is the fifth month in the lunar calendar).
Here are a few exciting ways to join the festivities, celebrate Chinese culture and store up some good luck for the summer!
Watch the Races and Cheer on the Competitors
Naturally, the best way to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival is to watch the races, which kick off at Concord Pacific Place on June 24th. As North America’s flagship Dragon Boat Festival, Vancouver’s festivities are a sight to behold.
The festival features several stages for traditional dancing and music, food vendors, marketplaces, pavilions, and family-friendly activities. Tickets are free.
Eat Traditional Chinese Dishes
To get the most mileage out of your dragon boat, you need to fuel up. And in June, food is all about courting good luck. The go-to traditional food for the Dragon Boat Festival is rice cakes (called zongzi), which you can make at home using glutinous rice and various fillings: meat, veggies, red beans, etc. People also traditionally eat foods that, in Chinese, sound like the number five (Wu).
To learn more about Chinese food cultures, and to get inspiration for your very own at-home Dragon Boat celebration, check out the food encyclopedia from Canadian food delivery service SkipTheDishes. It’s a terrific way to learn about different cuisines and cultural approaches to food.
Take a Long Stroll Through Your Local Chinatown
It’s considered tradition by some to take a long walk on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival. These extended, ambling strolls are said to be good luck (they’re also a great way to burn those rice cake calories).
After the race concludes, head northeast toward Chinatown, where you can take in the cultural sites, patronize local Chinese-owned businesses, and grab a refreshing cup of boba.
Stand an Egg on Its End (Yes, Really)
This might be the oddest of the Dragon Boat traditions, but people swear that it works! At exactly noon, try to stand an egg on its tapered end; if you succeed, you have some good luck coming your way.
Some theorists maintain that balancing an egg is easiest in June because it’s around the vernal equinox, and thus the sun’s gravitational pull can help you pull off the feat. Yes, it’s specious science – but who are we to argue with a little good luck! Plus, it’s a fun, inexpensive family activity that requires minimal effort (except for cleaning up the odd eggshell).
This June, get into the Dragon Boat spirit here in Vancouver. Watch the thrilling races, brush up on Chinese cuisine with an online culinary database, stroll through Chinatown, and get the whole family involved in an egg-balancing competition.