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The first festival in the last lunar month—Laba Festival

Popularity 1Viewed 822 times 2016-1-17 23:05 |System category:News| festival

Today is Laba Festival in the Year Goat. La (the forth tone in Chinese) stands for the last lunar month, Layue; And ba (the first tone in Chinese) means “the eighth day”. Many places in China would eat Laba gruel, a kind of porridge with rice and many other beans, nuts or some others, based on personal taste. In my hometown, eight kinds of materials are needed. But according to one text from my primary school book, the gruel needs eighteen kinds of ingredients, to memorize the eighteen arhats in the temple.

And as for the originality of the festival food, there are several versions. Here I would like to introduce three original stories.

1.       It was said Shakyamuni Buddha, who was “the primary figure in Buddhism and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules were believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers”, attained enlightenment on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month. People then would eat gruel on this day every year, to memorize his sufferings in the six years before he was enlightened. Now many temples provide gruel to the public, which also originates from this story.


2.       Zhuanxu, one of the five kings in remote ages, had three sons. They became devils after death, and would scare children. People use red beans, which was one material of the gruel to dispel the evil ghosts. And then Laba gruel began to become popular among common people.


3.       During Qin Dynasty, the emperor ordered to build the Great Wall. All workers didn’t have enough food. On the eighth day, they gathered all grains that they had to make a kind of porridge, to avoid starvation. Unfortunately, many workers still died. To memorize these workers, people then ate gruel with all kinds of grains mixed on this day.


Except eating Laba porridge, people also go to the temple to pray for good luck. In north China, today people make Laba garlic, with garlic pickled in vinegar. And the vinegar, with a taste of garlic then, will be used to match dumplings on Spring Festival. The garlic, which becomes green till Spring Festival, is also very delicious. For me, I prefer the garlic to the vinegar. It is said that in one county in Anhui Province, people would Laba toufu. But I have never seen such kind of food, and hope someday I can.

It is not only the first festival in Layue, also considered as the start of Spring Festival. When I was young, my grandmother always said that people began to prepare for Spring Festival from today. In the old days, business people would stop their businesses, people who work outside would come home and peddlers who sell festival things became busy. And nian (Spring Festival) starts.


Here I wish everyone could spend the festival with your beloved ones, and get prepared for the Spring Festival.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (2 comments)

Reply Report Dr.Bill.Shen 2016-1-18 16:19
good to know that nian has started. congee in first picture looked so tempting. is that something actually on your dinning table or clipped from a magzine ?
Reply Report irisshao823 2016-1-18 17:07
Dr.Bill.Shen: good to know that nian has started. congee in first picture looked so tempting. is that something actually on your dinning table or clipped from a mag ...
The pictures are all from the internet.  But I can make the gruel by myself. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to make it this year.

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