Have you eaten the Laba porridge yesterday? Do you know what festival it was yesterday? In fact, the eighth day of 12th month is la yue chu ba, or laba. The day is also known as the Laba Rice Porridge Festival. Today we’ll be looking at this traditional festival.
Laba is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the Chinese calendar. It is customary on this day to eat Laba Congee. It is also the Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. Therefore, many of the customs of the Laba Festival are related to Buddhism. On this day, the ancients had a tradition of offering ancestors and gods, praying for abundance and good fortune, and in some areas there was a custom of drinking Laba porridge.
Meaning of “La” in Chinese
There are three meanings of “La” in Chinese. First, “La(腊) means the meaning of the new and the old alternate in Chinese.
Second, “La(腊)” is similar to “Lie(猎, means: hunting)”. Winter is the slack season for farmers, so they have time to find things to burn in the sacrifice. The radical of “腊” represents the sacrifice of meat to one’s ancestors (“月” symbolizes meat).
Lastly, “La(腊) means the expulsion of disease and meeting the arrival of spring.
Before the Qin Dynasty, the Raba Festival was a celebration of the new harvest. After the introduction of Buddhism into China in the first century AD, this festival was used to commemorate the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha.
It is said that Laba Congee originated in India. As the son of the ancient king of northern India, Sakyamuni could not stand the local people suffering from the sickness and ruled by Brahman. As a result, he gave up his lofty status and went out to seek ways to enlighten himself. After six years of hard life and self-torture, he sat under the Bodhi tree on the eighth day of the lunar calendar and realized the truth of Buddhism. People remembered that Sakyamuni only ate rice every day in the past six years. Therefore, on the 8th day of the 12th month of each year, people will commemorate him by eating porridge.
- Eating Laba rice porridge
Although the materials used in different areas of Laba porridge are different, they basically include diversified rice (glutinous rice, oats, corns etc.), beans (soy beans, mung beans, kidney beans, cowpeas etc.), dried nuts (chestnuts, almonds, peanuts, etc.), bean curd and meat. Melon seeds, lotus seeds, pine nuts, sugar, and other preserved fruits are added to give more flavors.
- making Laba garlic
Garlic is soaked in vinegar for twenty days starting from the Laba festival. The garlic and vinegar is then used alongside Chinese dumplings (or jiaozi) around Chinese New Year
- Eating ice
On the day before Laba Festivval, people generally used steel basins to freeze water and wait until the Laba Festival to remove the ice and knock the ice into pieces. It is said that eating the rice in this day will not cause stomach pain in the next year.
- Laba bean curd
Laba bean curd is one of the traditional folk snacks in the Yi county, Anhui Province. On the eve of the Spring Festival, every household must make tofu, and the folks will call this tofu as “Laba Tofu”.
- Laba noodkes
Laba Noodles, the special food for Laba Festival. People in the Chengcheng area in the northern part of Shaanxi Province, generally do not drink porridge during Laba festival, but a bowl of Laba noodles.
- Wheat kernel rice
People in Xining do not drink porridge during Laba Festival, but eats wheat kernel rice. On the seventh day of the twelfth lunar month, the newly-milled wheat kernels are boiled with beef and mutton, and seasonings such as green salt, ginger skin, pepper, grass fruit and seedlings are cooked.
As a traditional Chinese festival celebrated by Han nationality, Laba Festival is regarded as the prelude to the Chinese Spring Festival. And it is warming to eat a bowel of nutrient-rich porridge in the harsh winter.