Dragon Boat Festival

18 Oct

Food is an incredibly important part of the Momotaro myth. Momotaro is created from within a giant peach, and his birth gave him a divine purpose. As he leaves to fulfill his destiny of defeating an island of ogres, his mother gives him millet dumplings, which he uses to convince the spotted dog, the monkey, and the pheasant to help him in his quest. The dumplings help the group conquer the Ogre Island and achieve a mythical status within the story.

In the Chinese myth of Qu Yuan – the wise scholar from ancient China – food also plays an important role. The myth goes that Qu Yuan was a minister in the court of King Chu, but was exiled because other court officials were jealous of his wisdom and ideas. He warned the King of impending attacks from other states and provided strategies for defense, but was paid no attention.

Though a hero to the people, Qu Yuan drowned himself instead of facing a life in exile. The Chu people searched for him in Dragon Boats, and threw Glutinous Rice “tamales” wrapped in bamboo leaves to prevent the fish from eating his body. They loved Qu Yuan and knew he was unrightfully removed from the court, and began the tradition of Duan Wu Jie, or the Dragon Boat Festival, every year to commemorate his death.

I grew up celebrating the festival and eating the “tamales.” I never learned of the purpose of the myth, but to this day people celebrate the day by teaching their kids the myth and unwrapping both savory and sweet rice “tamales.”

Source: http://taoism.about.com/od/holidays/a/Dragon_Boat_Festival.htm

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