Laba Festival

Laba Festival (Chinese: 臘八節) is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the eighth day of the month of La (or Layue 臘月), the twelfth month of the Chinese calendar. It marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year period and is observed by eating Laba congee, a special dish made for the occasion.

The festival’s origins date back to ancient times when sacrifices were made to gods and ancestors to wish for prosperity, health, safety, and a good harvest in the upcoming year. Over time, the festival became associated with Buddhism and was fixed on the eighth day of the twelfth month to commemorate Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment.

One of the key customs of the Laba Festival is the consumption of Laba congee, a nutritious dish made from various grains, beans, nuts, and dried fruits. Legend has it that the dish originated in Buddhist monasteries during the Song dynasty and is believed to bring good health in the winter. Laba congee is sometimes referred to as “eight-treasure congee” due to the inclusion of eight or more ingredients, symbolizing good luck.

Another traditional food associated with the Laba Festival is Laba garlic, particularly popular in northern China. It is made by soaking garlic in vinegar and is believed to bring good fortune when eaten alongside Chinese dumplings (jiaozi) around Chinese New Year.

In popular culture, the Laba Festival is referenced in Jin Yong’s novel “Ode to Gallantry,” and in 2011, Google commemorated the festival with a Google Doodle.