On the fifth day of the lunar calendar, there is the Dragon Boat Festival. The main activities of this day include eating zongzi (a traditional Chinese food made of glutinous rice and filled with different fillings such as eggs and meat), dragon boat racing, hanging a special plant, and drinking special wine. Eating zongzi and dragon boat racing is to celebrate the memory of the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan resented the corrupt Chinese government and so jumped into the river to commit suicide. However, the people really loved him and did not want to see him die, so they raced boats out onto the river to try to rescue him. They threw zongzi into the river in hopes that the fish would eat them instead of the body of Qu Yuan. Hanging the special plant and drinking the special wine is to ward off evil spirits.
My informant did a great job in explaining the symbolism of the different aspects of the Dragon Boat Festival in her retelling of the tradition to me. She grew up in America, but her family still makes zongzi during the Spring Festival to pay homage to the tradition. Although she had visited China once and observed the dragon boat racing tradition, she was very young and barely remembers it. She would like to go back to see it again. However, growing up, her mom had always told her the story of Qu Yuan, so eating zongzi always reminds her of his story and of the reason why zongzi and dragon boat racing is so important to the Spring Festival holiday season.