Have you watched or attended a dragon boat race before? Have you wondered how you can celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival with your kids at home? In this post, I’m going to show you the best ways to celebrate Dragon Boat Festival with your kids. And the best thing is you don’t need to live close to a Chinatown or know Chinese. Anyone can celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival and learn a little Chinese history.
In addition to Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival is another big traditional festival that the Chinese celebrate. The Chinese believe that summer comes after this festival, and the highlights of the festival are the dragon boat races. I especially love that this festival is based on several real, historical stories and not a myth.
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What is the Dragon Boat Festival?
Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Tuen Ng Festival (端午節/端午节/duān wǔ jié). This festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar. It is another traditional Chinese festival with its own historical stories, food, and activities.
A long time ago, in the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty of China (c. 340–278 BC), there was a famous poet and a royal minister who loved his country. His name was Qu Yuan. During his ministry, the king decided not to listen to Qu Yuan and to trust and ally himself with the opposing force. As a result, Qu Yuan was exiled from his own country. At the end, when Qu Yuan heard about the attack on his country and the death of the king, he was so heartbroken that he committed suicide by drowning himself in a river.
After the news of Qu Yuan’s death was spread, the local people who admired Qu Yan so much wanted to retrieve his body by boat. They also made sticky rice balls and dropped them in a river, so the fish would eat the rice balls and not Qu Yuan’s body. They also played drums to scare the fish away.
While this is a sad, patriotic story from ancient China, the cultural importance was so great that it became a Chinese festival that is celebrated every year because it represents several values: honor, loyalty, dragon, food, and honoring the dead.
The Best Ways to Celebrate Dragon Boat Festival with Your Kids
Growing up, my parents never took me to watch any actual dragon boat races, but we watched the races on TV. My mom would also prepare some congee with rice dumplings for lunch. Sometimes, we went swimming as a family to celebrate the coming summer. I also learned about the story of Qu Yuan and his poetry in high school, but that’s about it.
Now that I am a homeschooling mom, I want to introduce the dragon boat races, the great food, and the moving story of Qu Yuan to my own kids. If you want to do the same, here are 12 activities that you can easily use to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival in your own homes.
1. Build a Dragon boat
2. Hold a mini dragon boat contest
- Dragon Boat Race (Classroom Games)
3. Read stories about Dragon Boat Festival
4. Work on Dragon Boat Festival printables
5. Make crafts or painting of dragon boats
- Dragon Boat Festival 端午节 duānwǔjié (Mandarin for Me)
6. Make and eat rice dumplings (Zhong zi)
- How To Make Rice Dumplings (Zongzi or Joong)(Chinese American Family)
7. Play the standing-the-eggs-at-noon game
- Chinese Culture Adventure: Dragon Boat Festival – Duān Wǔ Jié 端午節(Miss Panda Chinese)
8. Color some dragon festival pictures
- Dragon Boat Festival Coloring Pages and Pictures (Chinesechildbook.com)
9. Watch a real dragon boat race
- A traditional dragon boat race
- A modern dragon boat race (in Cantonese with English subtitle)
10. Learn to paddle a boat
11. Learn songs about Dragon Boat Festival
12. Watch videos about the Dragon Boat Festival
- in Mandarin
- in Cantonese
Do you have any other suggestions for this list?
Which activities work best for you and your family?