Yesterday was a good day for haircuts - especially for the well-being of maternal uncles - but not the right day in crowded saloons.
There were long queues at barber shops yesterday as millions got their first trims of the Lunar New Year.
A haircut on the second day of the second month (Er Yue Er) is considered auspicious, while having one during the first month of the new year is supposed to bring bad luck to maternal uncles.
While a growing number of young Chinese have tended to ignore the "superstitious" tradition in recent years, more turned up this year to their locks shorn - many hoping to ward off the ill effects of the global economic downturn.
Bank employee Wang Jian had been waiting in line at Silian Barbershop for over an hour yesterday morning in Beijing's Wangfujing Street where he spoke to China Daily.
"My number is 146 and there are still more than 50 people ahead of me," Wang said, killing time by playing a game on his cell phone.
"My hair is not long, but people say that having a haircut today brings good luck, so why not give it a try?"
Another who wanted to make sure luck was on his side was He Ye, who graduates from Jilin Agriculture University this year and expects competition for jobs to be intense.
"I believe a haircut will bring me luck," the 23-year-old said. "It will stand me in good stead for the difficulties ahead."
Zhu Xingyu, the manager of Silian Barbershop, which first opened its doors 53 years ago, said: "I didn't expect such a big crowd. We expect to serve more than 600 people, which is almost five times higher than usual."
Zhu said the shop opened for business an hour earlier than usual, at 8 am, and customers had been pouring in since.
He added that all 30 of his staff were on duty and it was so busy lunch breaks were out of the question.
Er Yue Er, also known as Longtai Tou Festival ("dragon raises head") was first celebrated because this was when the legendary creature brought rain and irrigated the crops.
According to Zhang Wangchun, a folklore expert at Northwest University in Xi'an, the tradition of getting a haircut comes from a tale about a student who regularly trimmed his uncle's hair. After the old man died, the student would look at his haircutting tools and miss him.
The story was incorrectly passed down, however, as the words for "miss" and "death" (homonyms in Chinese) were mixed up, Zhang said.
(China Daily February 27, 2009)