On Jan 5, 2017, people will be able to get free “Laba” porridge at many temples like Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing.
Otherwise, people could also enjoy the porridge at those time-honored restaurants like Huguosi Snacks, Tongheju Restaurant, Quyuan Restaurant and Makai Restaurant.
It is a way of celebrating the Laba Festival, or Laba Rice Porridge Festival, one of the traditional Chinese festivals on the eighth day of the 12th month of lunar calendar.
According to the Buddhist belief that on this day Sakyamuni became the Buddha thousands years ago, and that is why Buddhist temples observe this festival.
That is where the Laba Festival comes from.
”La”, a Chinese character, is closely associated with the meaning of offering sacrifices to gods or ancestors, while “Ba” means the number of eight.
It’s customary on this day to drink the special porridge, usually stewed of at least eight ingredients.
With rice as the main ingredient, this porridge may well contain ingredients like broad beans, red beans, mung beans, red dates, peanuts, chest nuts, both tasty and nutritious.
This tradition of making Laba porridge could be traced back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279), generously extolling the significance of diligence and thrift.
Apart from the porridge, there are also traditions of making Laba garlic and Laba noodles in some parts of North China.
Perhaps, the most important meaning of Laba is its loud reminding or counting-down of days to the most important Chinese festival — the Spring Festival. Laba is here, the Spring Festival is at the corner.