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Happy Laba Festival everyone! This is the last major festival before Chinese New Year. Yeah!

Here’s something you might want to know about the festival:

The Laba (simplified Chinese: 腊八; traditional Chinese: 臘八; literally: “Eighth of La”) is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the eighth day of the La Month (or Layue 臘月), the twelfth month of the Chinese calendar. It is customary on this day to eat Laba Congee. The Laba Festival had not been on a fixed day until the Southern and Northern dynasties, when it was influenced by Buddhism and got a fixed time on the eighth day of twelfth month, which was also the enlightenment day of the Buddha. Therefore, many customs of the Laba Festival are related to Buddhism. It corresponds directly to the Japanese Rohatsu and the South Asian Bodhi Day.

Before the Qin dynasty the Laba festival was a celebration of the new harvest.

After Buddhism spread to China during the first century CE, the festival was used as commemoration of Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment at the age of 35. During the Qing dynasty, ceremonies for the Laba festival would have been held in the Yonghe Temple in Beijing.

Traditionally, the consumption of Laba congee was an important element of the festival. In Northeast China, Northwest China and Jiangnan, this custom has been preserved, but it has become rarer in South China. On the first day of spring the government would hold a ceremony called “Beating Spring Ox” with the purpose of encouraging farming. Officials would use a colorful club to beat an earthen ox after worshiping the God of Grain; this was the so-called “Scourging Spring”. Even today, people in some places name Spring Begins as Beating Spring. After the ritual of “Beating Spring”, people would compete in grabbing the scattered pieces of the earthen ox, which would dispel pests or ants, and bring them good harvest in farming and abundant production of silk and livestock.

Congee for the imperial court would have been made of cream, lamb, various mixed grains, dried red dates, longan, chestnuts, peanuts, water caltrop, walnuts, raisins, melon seeds, and haw jelly.

Other congees are made of mixed rice, beans, and various types of nuts and dates. Sometimes the congee is decorated with coloured sweets or dried fruits.

Another custom is the soaking of 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.

 

 

 

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