Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Taiwan: Fifth Day Festival



Fifth Day Festival is another name for the Dragon Boat Festival or Duanwu Festival because it is May fifth in the lunar calendar (June 19th this year).

There are different ways to interpret the festival's cultural events we hold. The 'traditional' interpretation is to commemorate a Chinese poet Qu Yuan. The other interpretation from some older traditions is to prevent diseases and drowning in summer.

Either way, people are more interested in seeing dragon boat competitions and eating zongzi.

There are several dragon boat competitions in Taiwan, but the oldest one is in Yi-Lan (for more than 170 years). In this competition, there are only two teams. No judge, no time constraints--people can keep racing until one team admits their failure. Another characteristic of their dragon boat competition is standing on the boat and rowing.

Although there are many dragon boat competitions (some people are from other countries), there is only one place where the craftsmen make dragon boats by hand. Most boats people use now are made of fiberglass.

In addition to rowing or watching people rowing the dragon boats, how about trying an egg-standing game? And then, zongzi are ready!

Although Taiwan is not big, we have different kinds of zongzi in different areas. In northern Taiwan, people fry the rice with meat first and then steam it. In southern Taiwan, people put rice and other food together and boil it. In the Hakka community, people have another kind of zongzi. They grind the rice first and make rice loaf. After adding other food, they steam it. All of them are salty. There is another dessert-like zongzi with sweet bean paste inside. While other kinds of zongzi are eaten when they are hot, this kind of zongzi is eaten when cold and with honey or sugar. Smart-apple has described different kinds of zongzi. Arkun also demonstrated how her aunt made a zongzi in 48 seconds and made dozens of them!


While enjoying the food, people also like to argue about which kind of zongzi is more delicious. In Yogurt's family:


We ate our favorite zongzi (different kinds) with tea and coke and chatted. Mom said, 'boiled zongzi has less flavor because the flavor of meat and rice all goes to water.' My sister in law said, ' oh, it is not like what you said. Fried rice is so fatty and not healthy.' My brother, who loves his wife so much, said, 'we do not need to argue about this! I say their southern zongzi (boiled) is more orthodox!' We looked at my brother suspiciously because he was eating the northern zongzi with satisfaction. Why did he give up delicious food because of a pretty woman? He reasoned, 'based on the history,what Qu Yuan ate is southern zongzi.' 'Why?' 'It's simple! The zongzi Qu Yuan ate is in the water, so I said boiled zongzi is orthodox. Although their zongzi is orthodox, I am not Qu Yuan, and I do not like zongzi in the water. I like this kind of zongzi which has not been thrown into the water.' All of us understood what he meant and we laughed happily. This was another interesting Duanwu Festival.