Recalling Dragon Boat Festival in My Childhood Deepens Understanding of God's Love

Zongzi, typical food for Dragon Boat Festival
Zongzi, typical food for Dragon Boat Festival (photo: Provided by Zhang Yuanlai)

The Duanwu Festival (known as Dragon Boat Festival), a traditional Chinese holiday, is coming soon, but it doesn’t seem that the current celebration and festival are not as vibrant as in my childhood. I remember faintly the scene of the festival when I was a child.

At that time, I lived in a small mountain village. There’s a river flowing by my village, which is as clear as the eyes of a girl gazing at this land with affection. If you move the river pebbles away, you see tiny fish and shrimp hurriedly darting away and finding a new hiding place. It’s as if they are playing hide and seek with you. They’re so lovely that I can't bear to touch them. At that time, my simple thoughts and nature gave me a feeling of the simplicity in my thoughts made my soul natural.

Both sides of the river were covered with grass. It's a paradise for birds and insects, where a lot of Artemisia grows. On every Duanwu my older sister and I would get up before the sunrise. My sister would go to the field to pick achnatherum, also called henna.

It’s a kind of ordinary flower which demands no particular conditions. It’s so tough and can grow anywhere. There are many kinds of colors of this flower: deep red, light purple, white and yellow, light gold, pink and so on. Mash the flowers and you’ll get henna in red color. The color will never fade away. How beautiful it is!

That's a girl's scene, and I as a boy would go to the small river by the village to pick Artemisia. I’d take them home and them under the low eaves of our thatched house. At that time, I didn't know why I had to do it. The holiday custom left by the older generations is such that there is no why-you simply need to obey.

Now in my old age, long ago I left my village home. The holiday fun is no longer there.

Later I learned that Artemisia contains a special fragrance which can irritate insects so that they don’t annoy you. That’s why we keep the custom of putting up Artemisia in the house. And now as the mosquito repellent products are in full bloom, who would use Artemisia? And about henna, who would remember their presence when a girl can have a manicure anytime anywhere now? Even nail polish is out of date. The development of the times has begun to make people forget the past, which will lead them to forget God’s grace.

In fact, every traditional festival has a special meaning. Actually, every festival was initially a manifestation of the Lord’s love to human beings. Later, people's thoughts were added to all the festivals. That caused confusion and a misunderstanding of the original meanings of festivals.

Take Duanwu as an example, the character "duan" means "initial" and "wu" represents time. So Duanwu originally was a reminder to people that this time of year the air is humid and you need to look out for irritating mosquitoes. People learned from nature by using Artemisia and achnatherum to repel mosquitoes. However, now in addition to the time concept in Duanwu, the festival was given names such as the Dragon Boat Festival, Bath Orchid Festival, Qu Yuan (a famous ancient patriotic poet) Day, Daughter's Day, Dilla Festival, Dragon Day, and Lenten Festival and so on. According to statistics, there are now more than 20 names for the festival. It can be called a holiday with most names. After each name, people have given different connotations to the festival, which replace the most original meaning. Artificially attaching content leads people closer to idols and keep them away from understanding the Creator. This is also the root cause of ignorance and forgetfulness.

Finally, let me share with you my latest discovery. The Bible's Song of Songs is a poem about the love between Solomon and Rami. It reads: "My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi." (Song of Songs 1:13-14) The phoenix flower mentioned here is, in fact, the achnatherum of the Dragon Boat Festival, also known as henna.

In this coincidence, I feel God's simple love is everywhere.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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