37th Annual Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival, Cambridge Massachusetts

Attend the Dragon Boat Festival on Sunday, June 12! Photo by Madeleine Ball

Cambridge is a city where all things can happen, all people can meet, and of course, all kinds of culture can be embraced and celebrated. On Sunday, June 12, the 37th Dragon Boat Festival will take place on Charles River near Harvard Square, Cambridge. Watching the Dragon Boat races on the Cambridge side of the Charles River while eating authentic Chinese food is a perfect way to kick off this summer!

Dragon Boat Festival Tradition


An example of the type of dragon you will see at the Dragon Boat Festival this year! Photo by Madeleine Ball

The Dragon Boat Festival is a Chinese traditional holiday that occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of lunar calendar every year. The holiday commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, an ancient Chinese poet and minister back in 200 B.C. The Boston Dragon Boat Festival started in 1979, and it has now become the largest Dragon Boat Festival in North America, as well as the largest Asian-American cultural event in New England.

Nearly 70 local and visitor teams have registered for the race this year. They will race down the Charles River with 39-foot long Chinese style fiberglass boats decorated with Dragon heads and tails. The seeding trial race is from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 11 at MIT Pierce Boathouse and the final race is from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, June 12 along the Charles River, approximately from the Western Avenue Bridge to Weeks Footbridge near Harvard Square.

Race-watching Tips: The Western Avenue Bridge  and Weeks Footbridge are ideal locations to watch the race. However, to avoid the traffic, any spot along the racing course on Memorial Drive on the Cambridge side, or Soldiers Field Road on the Boston side would also be great to take a peek at the grand event.

Zongzi at the Dragon Boat Festival

Zongzi Dragon Boat Festival

Zongzi, an authentic Chinese dish to enjoy during the Dragon Boat Festival. Photo by Alpha.

Authentic Chinese food is one of the most important things you don’t want to miss during a Chinese event. And interestingly enough, there is always a special and seasonal food that comes with a traditional Chinese holiday. For the Dragon Boat Festival, it’s Zongzi.

Zongzi is not a type of exotic Asian food that will freak you out, but definitely something worth trying out. It is made of sticky rice, stuffed with fillings like salty pork, red beans and peanuts and wrapped with fresh bamboo leaves. It is usually cooked by steaming or boiling.

Fun fact: North and South China each have different traditions when it comes to making Zongzi, especially the fillings. North residents prefer sweet fillings such as red beans and jujubes, while southerners would go for salty ones such as barbecued pork. For a long time, they’ve been competing over the most authentic Zongzi.

Which one you would vote for? Check it out at the food tents on Memorial Drive near Harvard Square on Sunday afternoon 12pm – 5pm.

Arts, Craft and Performances

Meanwhile, there will be arts and crafts offerings and various performances in the main tent located along Cambridge side of Charles River near Harvard Square on Sunday afternoon. Performances include Chinese waist drum dance, dragon dance, Korean dance, Japan Taiko Drumming and so on. It will be a great chance to experience Asian culture with your families and friends, and to get some interesting souvenirs.

-Savannah Zhu, Content Writer