Falling on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month, Laba Festival was originally an occasion for people to give sacrifices to their ancestors, and to pray to heaven and earth for a good harvest and good luck for the family. Many years later, it has become a Laba Congee eating event - a porridge that contains different types of rice, beans, dried nuts, bean curd, and meat.
The 12th lunar month is called 'La' in Chinese and eight is pronounced 'ba', which is how the name 'Laba' was derived. It is not only regarded as a day of sacrifice, but also the day on which Sakyamuni (founder of Buddhism) realized the truth and became a Buddha.
The custom first originated in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) and became popular in the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). Now it has been over one thousand years that the Chinese people eat Laba Congee on Laba Festival day. As is known to all, since ancient times Chinese people have attached great importance to growing crops, so when the land bears a good harvest after years of hard work, the farmers will show great appreciation by sacrificing to the ancestors, and heaven and earth. Boiling Laba Congee is one way people celebrate their harvest.
The ingredients of Laba Porridge are various items that are full of nutrition. It is made of diversified rice (glutinous rice, oats, corns, etc.), beans (soybeans, mung beans, kidney beans, cowpeas, etc.), dried nuts (chestnuts, almonds, peanuts, etc.), bean curd and meat. Melon seeds, lotus seeds, pine nuts, sugar, and other preserved fruits are added to give more flavors. After 10 centuries of development, there are now over one hundred different cooking methods.
After hours of boiling, the porridge is offered as a sacrifice to the ancestors and is presented to friends before noon. Family members eat Laba Porridge together and leave some, symbolizing a good harvest next year. Some kind people hand out the porridge to the poor to show their pity. And in some regions, people believe that pasting porridge on the flowers and fruit trees indicates the blossom of flowers and good fruition.
Laba Porridge is now regarded as a very nutritious food in winter that has the function of strengthening the spleen, stimulating the appetite, and soothing the nerves. It is welcomed by all people of different ages.