Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 17, 2001

Dragon boats blessed with a bang

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

Common sense says you wouldn't place a firecracker in a dragon's mouth, but yesterday was an exception.

A Chinese lion dances at the blessing of dragon-head boats that will be used to train rowers for July's festival.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

The popping of firecrackers in the mouths of the dragon-head boats at Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki was part of a blessing ceremony yesterday for the vessels. The three fiberglass boats, each about 25 feet long, will be used for rowers to train for the upcoming AT&T Hawai'i Dragon Boat Festival on July 28 and 29.

The Dragon Boat Festival is one of the three major Chinese holidays, along with the lunar new year's and mid-autumn festivals.

Traditionally celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, it is highlighted by the dragon boat races, in which competing teams row to the cadence of drums.

While dragon boat racing has been a Chinese tradition for thousands of years, it has only been a regular event in Hawai'i since 1996.

"We'd been trying to form something annual like this 10 years prior to 1996," said Sunny Wong, president of the Hawai'i Dragon Boat Association.

Wong said a crew from Hawai'i will compete in dragon boat races in Taiwan this year.

The Dragon Boat Festival began as an occasion for driving off evil spirits and pestilence, and for finding peace in one's life.

The festival's significance as a time for warding off evil and disease is symbolized by a number of customary practices such as hanging calamus and moxa on the front door, and pasting up pictures of Chung Kuei, a nemesis of evil spirits.

Adults drink hsiung huang wine, and children are given fragrant sachets — both of which are said to possess qualities for guarding against evil and bringing peace.

Next month's Dragon Boat Festival at Ala Moana Beach Park will include live entertainment, a play area for children, and food and craft booths.