HAIKOU, June 16 (Xinhua) -- As Dragon Boat Festival approaches, Chen Haixia and her husband are in their busiest time of year.
The couple from Ding'an County on the island province of Hainan, have made thousands of Zongzi, a snack associated with the festival, since June.
The holiday is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the year according to the Chinese lunar calendar, and falls on June 18 this year. Traditions include racing dragon boats and eating Zongzi, glutinous rice with various fillings wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves.
Chen's family used to work at odd jobs and could hardly earn enough to support their three children, but since they started working at a Zongzi plant in the village in 2016, they have a steady income of at least 2,000 yuan (311 U.S. dollars) a month per person in the off season and much more in the peak season.
"Now, I make 500 to 600 Zongzi a day, and earn more than 300 yuan a day," said Chen, 47. To her great satisfaction, she is able to take care of her children herself after work.
During the run up to the festival, the plant where Chen works produces 40,000 to 50,000 Zongzi a day, 10 times the usual number.
"Even working hard, we are struggling to meet the huge demand," said Zhu Yuezhang, who heads the plant, set up in 2015.
The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, Chinese poet and minister of the State of Chu during the Warring States period between 475 and 221 B.C.
Qu drowned himself in the Miluo River in central China's Hunan Province after he was banished and accused of treason for his well-intended advice to the king.
Legend has it that upon learning of his death, locals raced boats to find his body in the river and dropped rice in the water in the hope that it would distract fish from eating Qu's body. These became traditions observed to this day.
While Zongzi is only consumed at Dragon Boat Festival in many parts of China, it is a common breakfast in Hainan.
The most popular fillings in Hainan Zongzi are pork and salty egg yolk. It is particularly favored by farmers and construction workers.
With a long tradition of making Zongzi, Ding'an County produced 18 million, worth 300 million yuan, in 2017, said Wang Feijian, head of the county Zongzi association.
The business has created jobs for more than 30,000 people in Ding'an, 70 percent of whom are women, and lifted more than 50 poor families out of poverty.
The county government offers training for poor residents willing to work in Zongzi plants and requires the plants to give priority to them during recruitment, Wang said.
In 2018, 210 poor villagers are involved in the business, he said.