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Traditional Food Festival

The Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid Autumn Festival are arguably the three most important festivals in China. People will eat special food on these festivals, namely Tangyuan (also called rice glue ball or sweet dumpling), Zongzi (rice dumpling) and Moon Cake.

The Spring Festival is the most important festival in China. The Tangyuan is eaten on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, or the Lantern Festival. The rice glue balls, cooked by boiling, have a soft texture but a sweet taste. The fillings are grounded chestnut, peanut, sesame, jujube paste or bean paste, mixed with sugar so this would please those who have a sweet tooth. People eat glutinous rice dumplings when wishing for a reunion of some sort.

The Zongzi, or rice dumplings, are eaten at the Dragon Boat Festival, or the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. They tend to be wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves but the material used depends on the region. In east China, like Suzhou, Jiaxing and Ningbo, the fillings would be bean paste, chestnut, jujube paste or fresh meat. In north China, it would be jujube or preserved fruit.

Even though it has developed a recent reputation as a food for festivals, zongzi has been eaten for a long time. The folklore goes that people eat it to commemorate a patriotic poet, Qu Yuan. It is said that in the 3rd century B.C., the poet committed suicide because his country had been invaded.

People commemorated him by throwing glutinous rice, stored in bamboo tubes, into the river. Later they wrapped them with reed leaves and strings. That's how the food developed. Some people give zongzi as a present when visiting friends and relatives at the time of the Dragon Boat Festival.

The Mid Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. People eat moon cakes for family gathering. The cake is round, like the full moon, with the filling inside. There are some patterns on the surface of the cake. Moon cakes vary according to different regions. Those made in Beijing, Suzhou, some areas of south Guangzhou and Chaozhou in Guangzhou are the most famous types. The fillings can be made of sugar, jujube paste, bean, ham, fruit, or cream, etc. It is also one of the presents that people take with them when visiting friends and relatives during the time of the Mid Autumn Festival.