dragonboatfest: asian thanksgiving

An uncle of mine once said to some visitors from America: “One thing that we Chinese should learn from you Americans … is being thankful. In Chinese culture, there is no holiday like Thanksgiving.”

Excuse me, sir, but I beg to differ.

Today is the fifth day of the fifth month, going by the longtime East Asian calendar. It’s Dragonboatfest all over the East of Asia.

Image courtesy of baydihongkong.vn.
Image courtesy of baydihongkong.vn.

The story of Double Fifth Dragonboatfest goes back more than 2000 years. Once upon a time in Asia, there was a royal advisor named “屈原” — that’s Khut Goân in Hokkien, Khuất Nguyên in Vietnamese, and so on.

K.G. gave the king tons of sage advice, and he was a man of the people. The people loved him.

Time and again, though, the king brushed his sageness aside. He made one bonehead mistake after another. Slowly but surely, the country went to shit. In despair, K.G. jumped into a river and drowned himself.

The people were devastated when they heard that their main man was done for, but right away they started doing what they had to do. They ran home to make packets of “sticky rice” wrapped in leaves, then headed out onto the river in dragonboats to salvage the good man’s body for a proper un-Christian burial. They pitched the packets of rice into the river as they went along, so that the fish would eat the rice, and not the man.

Don’t know about you, but now that’s what I call a “thanksgiving”.

Image courtesy of vietdaikynguyen.com.

Ye olde Double Fifth goes by many other names even in English. According to Wikipedia, the story as told above is mostly the “Wu” version, and no surprise, given my heritage… 

Some may try to pass off the Double Fifth as a “Chinese” or “Korean” thing, but don’t be deceived — this tradition is way older than any modern nation! If you live close by a body of water, why not grab an oar yourself and show some thanks sometime?

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