Feeling fiery today? That’s probably because it’s Dragon Head Raising Day, which falls each year on the second day of the second lunar month, as recorded by the proverb: “On the second day of the second month in Chinese lunar calendar, the dragon is awaked, raising his head” (二月二，龙抬头 Èr yuè èr, lóng táitóu).
If you didn’t know already, dragons are a prominent totem in Chinese culture, believed to dominate natural forces like wind and rain. On this day, they “raise their heads” (or awaken) with the sound of rumbling thunder, a sign of the coming rains that will revitalize the earth. Around this time (theoretically, anyway), the earth is bursting with life, grass and trees are beginning to sprout and farmers are getting ready to till the fields. In ancient China, people would worship the dragon god beside a river or a lake, praying for the precious spring rains to nurture their crops.
This holiday is also based heavily on ancient astronomy. Ancient China used a constellation system called Twenty Eight Mansions to measure the locations of the sun, moon and stars and to decide the season. One constellation, called “the Double Dragon of the East,” was hidden all winter beneath the eastern horizon. But on the second day of the second lunar month, the dragon’s head emerged above the eastern horizon, a phenomenon called long taitou (龙抬头, dragon raising its head).
This day is also sometimes called Longtoujie (龙头节，Dragon’s Head Festival) and Chunlongjie (春龙节，Spring Dragon’s Festival).
Traditionally, food eaten on this day was renamed after parts of the dragon. For instance, dumplings were called “dragon’s ears,” spring pancakes were called “dragon’s scales,” rice was called “dragon’s son” and wontons were called “dragon’s eyes.” The special foods usually eaten on this day include dragon’s scales, popcorn, soy beans, pig’s head and shepherd’s purse-fried rice.
Other forms of celebration, however, differ from region to region. In the town of Nanzhan (南山镇) in Shandong Province, this day was the first big celebration after Spring Festival, and occasion for their famous mule and horse fair.
Even people from Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang would participate in the fair, herding their domestic animals here in advance. In Shanxi, meanwhile, people get their hair cut in a symbolic move to ditch the old (i.e. unlucky) and embrace the new (i.e. lucky). In the countryside in Hebei Province, people would fetch water from a well at the crack of dawn, a practice known as “loading the dragon’s eggs” (挑龙蛋 tiāo lóng dàn). It was believed that on this day the well was full of dragon eggs and that bringing them home would bless the collector with a year of favorable weather and good harvest.
These days many of these traditions have fallen wayside. But you can still celebrate spring by swinging by the salon for a special Dragon Head Raising ‘do!