The Best of Asian Holidays

Ashley Chan | July 21, 2022

When many people think of Asian holidays, the first that comes to mind is the Lunar Festival. Houses are adorned with red and gold, and families go over to each other's homes to pay respect and distribute red envelopes filled with money to celebrate good fortune and commemorate the new year. Growing up, my family and I took the train to the city to see lion dances line the streets, with drums and symbols beating away as our community gathers to welcome the good and new by wishing each other happiness and great prosperity. We would end the day with a big home cooked meal like steamed fish and roasted duck. In other Asian cultures, the Lunar Festival is celebrated through different traditions. For example, Koreans enjoy the holiday with a warm delicious bowl of tteokguk (rice cake soup) and honor their elders with a traditional bow.

However, one of my favorite Asian holidays is not as well- known. The fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese Lunar calendar marks the beginning of the summer and the Dragon Boat Festival. Every year on this holiday, Chinese families prepare stuffed sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves. In Mandarin, we call it zongzi; in Cantonese, it is named joong. Sweet or salty, the sticky rice dumplings are stuffed traditionally with peanuts or red beans - depending on one’s family tradition. My favorite is made with multigrain rice, peanut, salted egg yolk, pork belly, and dried scallops. The multigrain is not only healthy and nutritious but naturally purple through the mixed grains. It’s delicious, healthy, and delicious to eat. The origins of the Dragon Boat Festival stem from over 2000 years ago, and with a story so ancient, the legend behind it has many different renditions. The myth tells the story of water dragons and throwing zongzis into the water to protect Qu Yuan creator of the sticky rice dumpling. During the pandemic, I had the opportunity to learn how to prepare and wrap the tricky little bundle. Although my joongs are not as pretty as my grandmother's, they still taste amazing.