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Origin and traditions of Longtaitou

chinese festival, longtaitou, dragon-head raising day

The Dragon Head-raising Day falls on the second day of the second lunar month, which is a traditional festival for Han nationality and many minorities in most Chinese regions. This year, the festival falls on March 10. 


The origin of the festival is deeply related to Awakening of Insects, one of the 24 solar terms. It's said that when the day comes, the land will wake up while the Yang Qi starts to rise. Dragons are auspicious omen in Chinese folk legends and they dominate wind and rain. As the folk saying goes, "dragon raises its head on the second day of the second lunar month", people hope that dragons will make plentiful rain for the mankind and to facilitate spring ploughing. 


It was first recorded in the ancient text《燕京岁时记》(Annual Customs & Festivals in Peking): "是日食饼者谓之龙鳞饼,食面者谓之龙须面。闺中停止针线,恐伤龙目也", meaning: on this day, those who eat pancakes must call the food “Dragon Scale Bing", and those who eat noodles should call the noodles as "Dragon Beard Noodles". In women's residences, needlework was halted so that the dragon's eyes will not be harmed. The dragon was believed to control the rain and the wind. The ancient Chinese accordingly attributed the first spring rains to the mysterious power of the dragon.


The most well-known tradition on this day is the cutting of hair. On this day, if you cut your hair, it is believed you will have good fortune for the rest of the year. In addition, Chinese refrain from getting haircuts during the first lunar month of the year as it is believed that 正月剃头死舅舅 (if you cut your hair in the first month, your uncle will die).


This may seem like a strange tradition, but it is, in fact, related to the Manchu invasion against the Han Chinese, which led to the creation of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). When the Manchu took over, they ordered the Han Chinese to adopt their hairstyle. Anyone who refused cut their hair had their head chopped off.


In an attempt to preserve their Han identities they secretly defied rule from outsiders. The words 死舅 have similar pronunciation to 思旧, meaning "miss the past".


Today, this tradition has lost its original significance, but many still believe that having a haircut in the first lunar month brings bad luck, while having a haircut on Dragon Head Raising Day gives a blessing from heaven.



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