Chinese Laba Festival (Rice Porridge Festival)

Introduction

As a traditional Chinese festival celebrated by Han nationality, Laba Festival is regarded as the prelude to the Chinese Spring Festival. It falls on the eighth day of the twelfth month of Chinese lunar calendar (usually in January of the next year in Gregorian calendar). The twelfth month is called 'La month' and eight is pronounced as 'Ba' in Chinese. So, the festival is thus named. As people make and eat rice porridges to celebrate the day, it is named the Rice Porridge Festival as well.

Origins

1. One said that the Laba Festival was originated from the ceremonies of sacrificing to the ancestors and celebrating the harvest. In the old times, the activity of sacrificing to the ancestors is called 'La' and usually happened on the twelfth month (La month). It was until the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 - 589 AD) that the activities had a fixed day - the eighth day.

2. They other said it was related with Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. Legend said that it was on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month that Sakyamuni attained enlightenment and became a Buddha. To commemorate this, on that day people eat porridge to make offerings to the Buddha every year, and the porridge was called 'Laba porridge'.

Fast Facts about Laba Festival

Chinese Name: 腊八节 Làbā Jié
Alternative Names: Rice Porridge Festival, the Day of Enlightenment
Date: Dec.8th (Chinese Lunar Calendar)
Festival Type: Traditional Chinese Festival
Traditions and Customs: Eating Laba rice porridge, Making ‘Laba garlic’ (Garlic pickled in vinegar)
Festival Food: Laba porridge

Date of Laba Festival

The Laba Festival usually falls on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month. In Gregorian calendar, it usually falls on January of the next year. The following chart shows the exact date for the festival from 2018 to 2020:
Year Date of Laba Festival
2018 January 13th, 2019
2019 January 2nd, 2020
2020 January 20th, 2021

Traditions and Customs

Main traditions for Laba Festival are eating Laba porridge and making Laba garlic.

Laba Rice Porridge:
Mainly popular in Northeast China, Northwest China and Jiangnan (lands immediately to the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River), Laba porridge is the essential food for the festival. Since the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD), it has had the custom of eating Laba porridge on the Laba Festival. During the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD), emperors usually offered Laba porridges to their officials and the common people made it for sacrificing to their ancestors. Buddhist temples offered Laba rice porridges to the poor to show their faith to the Buddha. It was also used to present relatives and friends.

   
Laba porridge usually contains glutinous rice, wheat, corn, dried dates, lotus seeds, peanuts, loongan meat, red beans, peas, millet, raisins and some other ingredients. It was mostly made with eight ingredients and boiled as the way to boil the common porridge. By adding some sugar or salt, it will be tastier. As the beans is hard to boil, it's better to soak them for hours before boiling. After the porridge is done, it is customarily offered to the gods and ancestors as the sacrifice first. Next can be send to relatives and friends. But it should be sent before noon. Finally, family enjoys it together. To left some porridge is good, as it means there will be leftovers each year.

Making Laba garlic:
Making Laba garlic on the Laba Festival is a custom in northern China. It is very easy to make. The ingredients are garlic and vinegar. After peeling the garlic and putting it in a jar and filling it with vinegar (sugar can also be added), the rest time is to wait. Almost twenty days later, the garlic will become green. People usually eat it together with the dumplings on the Spring Festival Eve.

Legends

Sakyamuni is the son of Jinfan emperor in the ancient northern Indian. It is said that he couldn't bear the people's suffering from the diseases and was not satisfied with the rule of Bramins. So he gave up the throne and entered into religion to practice doctrine. On the way to practice Buddhism, he was hungry and exhausted. A shepherd girl fed him with the porridge made with beans and rice. Sakyamuni was thus able to continue his journey. Six years later, he became a Buddha under the bodhi tree on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month. To commemorate this and remember his sufferings, people eat porridge to make offerings to the Buddha on the day every year.

More Traditional Chinese Festivals:

Chinese Spring Festival      Lantern Festival      Dragon Heads-raising Day      Qingming Festival      Ghost Festival      Double Seventh Festival       Dragon Boat Festival         Mid-Autumn Festival      The Double Ninth Festival      Winter Solstice

Chinese Calendar

SuMoTuWeThFrSa
25
十八/18
26
十九/19
27
二十/20
28
廿一/21
29
廿二/22
30
廿三/23
1
廿四/24
2
廿五/25
3
廿六/26
4
廿七/27
5
廿八/28
6
廿九/29
十一月 (Nov)
7
初一/1
8
初二/2
9
初三/3
10
初四/4
11
初五/5
12
初六/6
13
初七/7
14
初八/8
15
初九/9
16
初十/10
17
十一/11
18
十二/12
19
十三/13
20
十四/14
21
十五/15
22
十六/16
23
十七/17
24
十八/18
25
十九/19
26
二十/20
27
廿一/21
28
廿二/22
29
廿三/23
30
廿四/24
31
廿五/25
1
廿六/26
2
廿七/27
3
廿八/28
4
廿九/29
5
三十/30

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