Laba Festival - When and How Do Chinese Celebrate It?
Laba Festival is celebrated on the eighth day of the last month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The festival in recent years falls on December 30th, 2022, and January 18th, 2024 on the Gregorian calendar.
Laba is a traditional Chinese festival that is regarded as the prelude to the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival).
What Is Laba Festival?
Laba Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the eighth day of the 12th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The 12th lunar month is called "la" in Chinese and "eight" is pronounced "ba" in Chinese. This is where the name of the festival comes from.
The Laba Festival was traditionally a time to honor their ancestors, and pray to deities, heaven, and earth for a good harvest and good luck.
When Is Laba Festival?
Falling on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month, this year, the Laba Festival falls on December 30, 2022, on the Gregorian calendar. Next year, the Laba Festival will fall on January 18th, 2024.
The date of the Laba Festival is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar, which changes every year but is always somewhere in the period from late December to early January.
How Do the Chinese Celebrate Laba Festival?
The main activities at the Laba Festival include worshipping ancestors, making and eating Laba porridge, and making Laba garlic and Laba vinegar.
1. Offering Sacrifices to Ancestors
Honoring ancestors is a tradition at the Laba Festival. Chinese people pray to their ancestors and heaven and earth for fortune and a successful harvest.
People commemorate and show respect to their ancestors by offering food, tea, or wine, burning incense, etc. However, the custom has been greatly simplified today.
2. Eating Laba Porridge
Traditionally, the consumption of Laba porridge was an important element of the Laba Festival.
Laba porridge, also known as "Buddha porridge", is made of a variety of ingredients, including rice, millet, corn, barley, red dates, lotus seeds, peanuts, and various beans (such as red beans, mung beans, soybeans, black beans, kidney beans, etc.).
The custom of eating Laba porridge on this day began in the Song Dynasty. Nowadays, Laba Porridge is regarded as a nutritious food. In some parts of China, especially in northern China, eating Laba porridge at the Laba Festival is still an important custom.
3. Making Laba Garlic and Laba Vinegar
In many places in northern China, the custom of making Laba garlic and vinegar on the day of the Laba Festival is prevalent.
Making Laba garlic is very simple. Put the peeled garlic cloves in a sealed jar, bottle, or another container, then pour vinegar, seal the top, and put it in a cold place for a couple of days. The vinegar soaking with garlic is Laba vinegar. Laba garlic and Laba vinegar with dumplings are traditional foods for the Chinese New Year.
History of Laba Festival
As an important traditional festival in China, Laba Festival has a history of more than 1,200 years.
"La" was originally a ritual in ancient times. In the Shang Dynasty, every year, people held four big sacrifices in spring, summer, autumn, and winter for their ancestors and the gods of heaven and earth. Among them, the sacrifice in winter was the largest and most important, which was later called "La Worship". Therefore, people call the 12th lunar month "the La Month" and the eighth day of the 12th lunar month "Laba".
It was not until the Southern and Northern Dynasties that the eighth day of the 12th lunar month was fixed as the "Laba Festival", in which people honored their ancestors and the gods of heaven and earth and prayed for a good harvest and good luck. Since the Song Dynasty, every household made Laba Porridge on the day of the Laba Festival. In the Qing Dynasty, the custom of making and eating Laba porridge was even more prevalent.
Legend of Laba Festival
There are several legends about the origin of the Laba Festival.
One legend is that Laba porridge was a religious festival food of Buddhism that originated in India. Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, once starved and met a village girl who gave him porridge. He attained enlightenment on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month. After Buddhism was introduced into China, on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month of each year, porridge was used as a charity for the hungry, this is the origin of the Laba Festival and Laba porridge.
Another legend about the Laba porridge is that Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder and the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, used to eat porridge during hard times. After taking the throne, he ordered the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month as the Laba Festival.