The Laba Festival (腊 八 節) is the last of the Chinese Eight Festival Days. Falling on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month (January 17, 2016), the Laba Festival was originally a day when people prepared sacrifices for their ancestors, and to request of Heaven and Earth good fortune for the family at the end of the year. In the Song dynasty, it became a day for preparing Laba congee, a porridge containing different types of rice, beans, dried nuts, bean curd, and sometimes meat.
The twelfth lunar month is called “La” (腊) in Chinese, and eight, pronounced “ba” (八), is how the name “Laba” was derived. It is regarded as a day of both sacrifice and thanksgiving.
The custom first originated in the Song Dynasty (960—1279 CE) and became increasingly popular during the Qing Dynasty (1644—1911). Now it has been over one thousand years that the Chinese people eat Laba Congee on Laba Festival day.
The ingredients of the Laba porridge include diversified rice (glutinous rice, oats, and corn), beans (soy beans, mung beans, kidney beans, and cowpeas), dried nuts (chestnuts, almonds, and peanuts), bean curd, and sometimes meat, as well as melon seeds, lotus seeds, pine nuts, and any type of preserved fruits to add more flavors.
After a few hours of boiling, the porridge is offered at the home shrine as a sacrifice to the family’s ancestors and is presented to friends before noon. Family members eat Laba porridge together and leave some to symbolize a good harvest for the coming new year.
Some people choose to hand out the porridge to the poor and in some regions it is believed that pasting porridge on flowers and fruit trees will bring about an abundance of blossoming flowers and increased harvest of fruits.