The Dragon Boat Festival is a holiday here that gives everyone a day off, so we love it! A friend, one of my former tutors, invited my family to her home to make zongzi. Zongzi is a traditional food made of sticky rice and a date (or various meats) wrapped in a big bamboo leaf, then boiled. While we were there, she told me the history of the holiday. Now, keep in mind, she speaks Chinese. So, what I am about to tell you may or may not be translated correctly.
There once was a poet who was broken hearted. He held some powerful position and something went horribly wrong. He grabbed a big, heavy rock, then walked into the Long River, drowning himself. They never found his body, but they didn’t want the fish to eat it. Or maybe he got eaten by a fish. I’m not sure. Either way, they began to throw zongzi into the river to feed either him or the fish. Now, on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar year, they remember him by making zongzi and having a holiday!
The process of making zongzi took lots of time and nimble fingers. The rice was washed and soaked in water, but not cooked. The leaves are cleaned and dried. You have to hold the leaf while adding water and rice, a date, and more rice and water, then quickly fold into a pyramid without losing the rice, but letting the water run out.
We had to start over. A LOT.
It was a great way to spend the afternoon and a fun bit of history to participate in. Our hosts sent us home with a bag of uncooked zongzi and instructions on how to cook it properly (it took four hours and multiple boil/resting times). We all tried it the next morning and found it to be not bad! It was sticky and sweet and far exceeded our expectations.