Laba Festival (Rice Porridge Festival)

Lunar Year

Date of Laba Festival

2013 (Guisi Year) January 8, 2014
2014 (Jiawu Year) January 27, 2015
2015 (Yiwei Year) January 17, 2016
2016 (Bingshen Year) January 5, 2017
2017 (Dingyou Year) January 24, 2018
2018 (Wuxu Year) January 13, 2019
2019 (Jihai Year) January 2, 2020

The Laba Festival of 2016 (Bingshen Year) falls on January 5, 2017. There is no holiday for this traditional festival. Its schedule in recent years is shown in the table.

 Introduction to Laba Festival
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 truth and became a Buddha.

 Legend of Laba Festival

Laba Porridge
Laba Congee

It is said that Laba Congee originated from India. As the son of a king in the north of ancient India, Sakyamuni could not bear the local people's suffering from illness and the theocracy ruled by Brahman (one of the four Indian classes). As a result, he abandoned his lofty position and went out to seek a way to enlighten himself according to religious doctrine. After six years of enduring a very hard life and self-torture, he realized the truth of Buddhism while sitting under the bodhi tree on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month. It is remembered that during these six years, Sakyamuni only ate rice every day. So by eating porridge on the eighth day of the 12th month every year people commemorate him.

 Eating Laba Porridge Custom
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.

Ingredients of Laba Porridge
Ingredients of Laba Porridge
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 (soy beans, 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.