Celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival in Singapore 2024

GeneralJune 07, 2024 15:00

The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, is a vibrant and culturally rich celebration that takes place annually in Singapore. This year, the festival will be held from June 7 to June 9, 2024, and promises an array of exciting activities, including dragon boat races, traditional performances, and the savouring of delicious rice dumplings known as zongzi.


The Dragon Boat Festival: A Tradition of Reverence and Excitement

The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the life and death of Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet and minister during China’s Warring States period. According to legend, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River after being exiled due to political intrigue. In an effort to save him or at least recover his body, the locals paddled out on boats, beat drums, and threw rice into the water to distract fish. This act of reverence has evolved into the modern dragon boat races and the tradition of eating zongzi.

In Singapore, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Bedok Reservoir and Kallang River are popular venues for the thrilling dragon boat races, where teams from around the world compete in a display of strength and teamwork. The races are a sight to behold, with teams of paddlers, a helmsman, and a drummer synchronising their efforts to win the race.


Zongzi: The Quintessential Dragon Boat Festival Delicacy

Zongzi, also known as bak chang or dumplings, are an integral part of the Dragon Boat Festival. These traditional rice dumplings are wrapped in bamboo or banana leaves and filled with a variety of ingredients. Common fillings include salted egg yolks, pork belly, mushrooms, and chestnuts, making zongzi a delicious and savoury treat.

In Singapore, you can find various types of zongzi to suit different tastes:

1. Hokkien Bak Chang: This variant features a savoury filling of marinated pork, mushrooms, chestnuts, and salted egg yolk.

2. Cantonese Zongzi: Often filled with mung beans, Chinese sausage, and dried shrimp, these dumplings have a unique, slightly sweet flavour.

3. Nyonya Chang: A special Peranakan version that combines Chinese and Malay culinary influences. It’s characterised by its blue-tinted rice, achieved using butterfly pea flowers, and a sweet-savoury filling of minced pork, candied winter melon, and fragrant spices like coriander seeds and kencur.


Family Activities for the Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is not only about races and food; it’s also a time for family bonding through engaging activities. Here are two fun activities that families can enjoy together:


1. Making Paper Zongzi (Origami Dumplings)

This activity is a wonderful way to introduce children to the traditions of the Dragon Boat Festival through a creative craft. Here’s how to make your own paper zongzi:

Materials: Green cardstock, twine, scissors


1. Cut the green cardstock into long strips.

2. Fold each strip into a small triangle shape repeatedly along its length.

3. Unfold the paper to reveal triangular lines.

4. Follow the lines to refold the strip into a 3-D triangle, tucking the last end inside.

5. Wrap twine around the zongzi and tie a double knot to secure it.

6. Repeat with each strip and optionally connect them with longer twine for a decorative string of zongzi.


2. Making Nyonya Dumplings (Nyonya Zongzi)

Nyonya dumplings are a unique variant found in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, known for their distinct sweet-savoury flavour. Here’s a simplified recipe to try at home:


  • 400g glutinous rice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100g glutinous rice dyed with blue pea flower water
  • 8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped
  • 500g mixed pork belly and shoulder, diced
  • 100g candied winter melon, chopped#
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 6 shallots, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 tbsp coriander powder
  • 20g lesser galangal (kencur)
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Bamboo leaves for wrapping
  • Kitchen twine


1. Prepare the Filling: Sauté shallots and garlic in oil until fragrant. Add kencur, coriander powder, and pork. Cook until the pork is opaque. Add mushrooms, winter melon, soy sauces, and sugar. Cook until well-mixed and flavourful.

2. Wrap the Dumplings: Soak bamboo leaves in water until pliable. Take two leaves and form a cone. Fill with a layer of blue rice, followed by pork filling, and top with white glutinous rice. Fold the leaves to seal the dumpling and tie with kitchen twine.

3. Cook the Dumplings: Boil the dumplings for about 3 hours, or use an Instant Pot for 45 minutes. Let them cool before serving.


The Dragon Boat Festival in Singapore is a celebration of heritage, community, and delicious food. Whether you’re participating in the exciting races, enjoying the variety of zongzi, or engaging in family activities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Embrace the spirit of the festival and create lasting memories with your loved ones this year. 

Happy Dragon Boat Festival!


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