What image comes to your mind when you think of “the first signs of spring”? Daffodils? Tulips? Singing birds?
In Chinese culture, the beginning of spring is represented by the Dragon Head Festival. As the old saying goes, “the dragon rises its head on February 2nd of the lunar calendar”. Chinese people believe that the Dragon Head Festival marks the division between the cold winter and the warm spring. It was said that when the dragon rises its head with spring thunder, more rainfall is to be expected. And that is a good omen for a productive spring!
The dragon symbolizing a positive start to the spring season, spring food and customs often relate to this mythical creature. In some regions, food such as dumplings (dragon’s ears), wontons and rice (dragon’s seed) are named after body parts of the dragon. In other regions, eating noodles on that day is taboo because they resemble a dragon’s whiskers. Some people treat themselves with sweet roasted beans or popcorn, following the legend of Popcorn and Spring Dragon Day. In other regions, people will spray water on their front door, so as to invite dragons to their house and receive the blessing of a prosperous spring.
Sadly, traditions associated to the Dragon Head Festival have been gradually forgotten, since farming practices are decreasingly important to people’s lives. Still, Chinese people of an older generation keep up with celebrating the Festival as a new beginning. My own grandmother, for instance, thinks that the Dragon Head Festival is a great occasion to get a haircut: a fresh start from the”top”!