Tag Archives: festivals

The Dragon Boat and Zongzi Festival

‘Growing up in China, my family and I always celebrated the Dragon Boat and Zongzi Festival. Basically we would go into town and watch dragon boat races, which involved teams rowing decorated boats to music, while eating sticky rice dumplings which are called zongzi. This is a really big souther Chinese tradition with lots of festivities, praying, and it’s all about good luck. The festival celebrates Qu Yuan who was a prime minister in China centuries and centuries ago. I remember every year we would go to the river and dump the zongzi in to feed Qu yuan as a superstition. We also would hang a type of plant on our door called Chinese Mugwort to avoid mosquitos and bad luck as this is the hottest time of year.” – AS

AS grew up celebrating this holiday with her family each year as long as she can remember. It always signified a very fun time of year for her, even though it was the hottest days ever! AS emphasized that the biggest role it had, and still has, in her life, was not the history of the festival, but rather how delicious the zongzi is. While she no longer celebrates it, as she has moved to the US, she still makes and eats zongzi often, even for breakfast. Additionally, during the summer in the US, she hangs a fake plant on her door, that looks similar to Chinese Mugwort, to commemorate the Dragon Boat festival and keep her tradition as best she can in a new environment.

Zongzi: sticky rice dumplings
Chinese Mugwort hung on a door

The Dragon Boat Festival is a very important festival in the region of China AS grew up in, as it highlights the cultural significance of Qu Yuan, and the traditions that grew because of it. The festival also incorporates multiple superstitions, as much folklore does, as many of the rituals they perform are to avoid bad luck and bring in success for themselves and their family during the hottest time of year. Additionally, the dragon boat races are a tradition of Chinese folklore and mythology, as they correspond to a legend that dragon boats were used to save Qu Yuan from drowning in the river, hence throwing in dumplings to feed him. Also, the zongzi are a form of folk food, as they are many times offered as a tribute and also to ward off any evil spirits and bad luck. Many prayers and traditions are also important to this festival. With the huge celebrations the Dragon Boat festival brings, the Chinese culture and heritage of this southern region of China is shared and spread to all. AS, who recently had a baby, also shares these traditions of zongzi and mugwort with him when they days get hot! There is rich folklore characteristics all throughout this festival that allow the culture and traditions to continue.

Festival of Lights in Downtown Riverside California


Collector: “Did you participate in any specific rituals or festivals growing up?”

Informant: “I grew up attending the Festival of Lights in Downtown Riverside, California. It’s always around Christmas time. They cover the entire downtown city in Christmas lights. It’s beautiful. There are musicians, usually solo artists, that come out they’ll put a bucket right next to them to collect tips. There’s a guy who brings his dog with him every year while he plays banjo. There’s a lot of different vendors, like there’s one specific hot cocoa stand that’s usually there. I forget the name. Some people sell glow stick toys to kids. The crowd is mostly families and couples.”

Collector: “Is there a main ceremony or is it just seeing lights?”

Informant: “There is like a main ceremony where they turn all the lights on. You know, the first night that’s when it’s the most crowded. Everybody goes downtown and they wait for them to turn on the lights.”


The informant is a twenty-year-old male from Riverside California. 


I found the informant’s description of the Festival of Lights interesting, as I also grew up in Riverside but rarely participated in this downtown tradition. The Informant spoke fondly of the festival with warmth and smiled as he remembered small details from his childhood. I took the festival for granted, but his perspective made me see the tradition in a whole new light. The Informant feels very connected to the city of Riverside because he participated in community events annually. I felt disconnected from the community in my childhood, as I wasn’t involved in many hometown traditions. Local festivals have the power to create a sense of belonging in communities and build a strong emotional connection to a geographic location. 

Purim Jewish Religious Festival Celebration


Collector: “In your childhood, have you participated in any specific rituals or festivals?”

Informant: “I did a lot of Jewish religious holidays as a kid. During Purim at my temple — Temple Israel of West Hollywood— we eat different religious foods. There’s a cookie called the Hamantash which is like a triangle-shaped shortbread, filled with jelly. It’s so good. And then you have to do certain prayers and like community activities. The celebration is obviously like about one of the many genocides of the Jewish people, we overcame that, let’s party. And part of it has to do with this woman named Esther. Basically, she had to disguise herself as like, not being a Jew. So part of the ritual is to dress up in costume. So it’s like the Jewish Halloween!”


The informant is a female Jewish undergraduate student at the University of Southern California who grew up in Los Angeles. She regularly attends on-campus Jewish religious events at Hillel. 


Learning more about my friend’s religious traditions showed me how different my religious celebrations are in comparison. The costume ritual stood out to me the most. To make a Purim feel like a distinctly special day, inverted social rules are applied. People are expected to dress differently than in their everyday life. The Hamantash cookies were another tradition that piqued my interest. Indulging in this treat is reserved/associated with this special holiday. In my religion, I can’t recall any treats that have the same significance.

Santa Barbara Fiesta Spanish Celebration


Collector: “Do you have any specific rituals or festivals you have participated in?”

Informant: “In Santa Barbara there’s Fiesta. We celebrate the Old Spanish Days the first week of August every year.”

Collector: “How do people celebrate fiesta?”

Informant: “There are parades with dancers and Clydesdale horses. We make paper mache eggs that are filled with confetti and you place confetti over people’s heads by cracking the eggs. Eating tamales, corn on the cob. They make all kinds of tamales and Spanish drinks. We have different concerts and bands playing mariachi in the center of town.”

Collector: “Is it restricted to only a certain group of people?”

Informant: “Anyone can join in. It’s a festival for the whole town to celebrate.”


The informant is a black forty-eight-year-old woman from Santa Barbara California.


After learning about Fiesta’s rituals, I found it interesting that the informant participated in Spanish cultural events when she was black. Though she doesn’t share Hispanic ethnicity, attended Fiesta annually as a child and it is now part of her identity. Thus it can be argued that one’s culture does not come from race, but from customs and traditions one participates in. The informant said Fiesta is for the whole town to celebrate. I found it ironic that outsiders felt welcomed in Fiesta, as it is very culturally specific to the Spanish. Instead of “othering” the community, this celebration brought people together.

Soulas Greek Festivals

Informant Information:

  • Nationality: Greek
  • Occupation: Professor
  • Primary language: Greek/  English 

Context & Text:

I.T spoke on village life in Rhodos, and going with family to the monastery of Soulas, where the yearly festivals were held. E.T said, “These festivals are lost in time, beyond recorded time in Greece, they have occurred continuously..” From the neothlithic period, Greece has had a religious component and a form of entertainment for people. The monastery has served as a temple for the god Dionysus, the god of wine and good luck. The monastery is located In the mounts, surrounded by pine trees. These festivals take place in July for the whole month, where the village people become united. These festivals also served as a time to establish friendships and relationships, especially since the whole island and other islands like Athens would go to compete in athletic games. I.T recalls his village making huts from the branches of the trees and staying there for a month, children playing in the stadium, and everyone would dance and sing. He described these festivals as a sort of business expo, where people would bring animals to sell, or ceramics, dry foods, etc. This location is a sight to marry because of the significance of the place to the whole island, I.T mentioned how his own daughter chose to marry there. At these festivals, traditional food was made and drinks were open to everyone, there was no age limit. However, drinks could only be offered by adults and the purpose of drinking alcohol was for appetite and good company. Wine wasn’t used to get drunk, if they got drunk they would not be allowed to drink again and they would lose respect for breaking a code of conduct. 


I, myself, have been to the monastery of Soulas on my first visit to the island of Rhodos, Greece. This is where I met I.T, and he was born and raised in Rhodos and knows all about its magnificent culture. Upon visiting this site, I was able to learn more about Greek culture, specifically in Rhodos. When researching this sight in particular, I found that inside the temple there is a sacred water source that is believed to hold healing properties. In the outside area surrounding the temple, there are various sports facilities in which the competitions occur for the athletic games. Additionally, I found that these annual festivals that take place in the summer are done in honor of Saint Soulas, and pilgrims travel there days in advance to prepare for the festival. I believe that the Greek people hold such a strong sense of national pride, and they love to honor their rich culture by opening their doors to everyone in events such as the festivals of Soulas.