It is a way of celebrating the Laba Festival, or Laba Rice Porridge Festival, one of the traditional Chinese festivals on the eighth day of the 12th month of lunar calendar.
According to the Buddhist belief that on this day Sakyamuni became the Buddha thousands years ago, and that is why Buddhist temples observe this festival.
That is where the Laba Festival comes from.
“La”, a Chinese character, is closely associated with the meaning of offering sacrifices to gods or ancestors, while “Ba” means the number of eight.
It’s customary on this day to drink the special porridge,usually stewed of at least eight ingredients.
With rice as the main ingredient,this porridge maywell contain ingredients like broad beans, red beans, mung beans, red dates,peanuts,chest nuts,both tasty and nutritious.This tradition of making Laba porridge could be tracedback to the Song Dynasty (960-1279), generously extolling the significance of diligence and thrift.
Apart from the porridge,there are also traditions of making Laba garlic and Laba noodles in some parts of north China.
Perhaps,the most important meaning of Laba is itsloud reminding or counting-down of days to the most important Chinese festival–the Spring Festival. Laba is here, the Spring Festival is at the corner.
Customs of Laba Festival
1.Eating Laba Congee
The laba porridge(Congee) is not only a yummy traditional rite in China to mark the laba festival but also a delicacy good for health.
Glutinous rice;Red beans;Millets;Chinese sorghum;Lotus seeds;Dates Chestnuts;Walnut;Almonds Peanuts.
2.Soaking Laba Garlic
Another custom is the soaking of Laba garlic. Garlic is soaked in vinegar for more than twenty days starting from Laba festival.Then when the Chinese New Year comes, the garlic and vinegar is used alongside jiaozi on the table.
In some areas, a custom of eating ice is preserved. On the day before Laba festival，people freeze water in a basin, and eat the ice on Laba. It is said the ice had magical effect on Laba. If you eat it, you won’t get stomacaches in the coming year.
Legend of Laba Festival
According to the legend, when Sakyamuni was on his way into the high mountains.Exhausted from days of walking, a shepherdess found him there and fed him her lunch—porridge made with beans and rice. After six years of strict discipline, he finally realized his dream of full enlightenment on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month. Ever since, monks have prepared rice porridge on the eve of this date and held a ceremony the following day, during which they chant sutras and offer porridge to Buddha.Thus,the tradition of eating Laba porridge is based in religion, although over time the food itself has become a popular winter dish,especially in cold northern.