At a minute past midnight last night/early this morning (June 16th) in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities with large Chinese and other East Asian & Southeast Asian communities, people gathered to celebrate the beginning of the holiday known to most Stateside as Dragon Boat Festival. The 2,000 year old Duanwu Festival (端午節), as it is more officially known, is also called Duānwǔ Jié (Mandarin) and Tuen Ng Jit (Cantonese). It is an official holiday in China but is also recognized in such other countries as Malaysia and Singapore and (to a lesser degree) here in the US.
Numerically based, the Dragon Boat Festival takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar on which the Chinese calendar is based. The festival commemorates the patriotic poet Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), who is pictured above, but today's holiday also serves as an opportunity for people to build their bodies and dispel diseases, as well as keep natural disasters away. Much of the Dragon Boat Festival Day celebrations involve food and beverages: specifically, sharing red-bean filled zongzi (rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo) with some wine. And as its name implies, there is also dragon boat racing as well as decorating houses with aromatic herbs. Today, in honor of the holiday, people carry small bags of dried fragrant herbs, and drink wine mixed with spice in an effort, as tradition has it, to keep poisonous insects at bay.
Today people recognizing the holiday will "wrap rice dumplings, which use glutinous rice, egg yolk, Chinese mushrooms, pork, and so on as contents, as well as mainly bamboo leaves as covers and hemp string to tight them up. When ready, we steam them with bamboo steamers to make it full of natural fragrance; taste it with soybean sauce, chili sauce, or ketchup," said Wendy Chen, who runs the lifestyle & cultural blog Daily Wendy.
Note that today, Dragon Boat Festival Day, is different from the competitive Dragon Boat Festival boating events that happen later in the summer, including SoCal's infamous Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival. One of the larger international dragon boating events, the race takes place at Marine Stadium in Long Beach, CA on July 31st/August 1st and even attracts paddlers all the way from Asia. The San Francisco International Dragon Boat Festival takes place at Treasure Island on September 25th & 26th.