The Laba Festival, celebrated on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month, falls on January 18 this year. It is traditionally regarded as the prelude to Spring Festival, kicking off the preparations for the festivities.
The most important custom during the Laba Festival is eating Laba congee. This dish is cooked with a mix of eight ingredients, as eight is a fortuitous number in Chinese culture.
The recipe varies across China depending on regional availability but they usually contain grains or dried ingredients such as rice, glutinous rice, millet, corn, barley, dried dates, dried lotus seeds, dried longan fruit, red beans, peanuts or walnuts.
The Laba Festival is also a major Buddhist holiday. Many temples across China offer free Laba congee to visitors to commemorate Buddha and deliver his blessings. Every year, people line up at temples at dawn to show their devotion and seek good fortune for the coming year.
In northern China, it is a tradition to soak garlic in vinegar for the Laba Festival to make a dish known as Laba garlic. The garlic turns emerald green after more than 20 days, just in time for Spring Festival. The Laba garlic is then eaten with dumplings on the eve of the Spring Festival.
Laba tofu is a traditional folk snack from Anhui Province seasoned with salt, star anise and chili pepper. The tofu is usually sun-dried or hung up on straw rope in a ventilated room to dry. These special preparations ensure that the tofu will not spoil for three months. It can be eaten alone or stir-fried with meat.
In the central parts of Shaanxi Province, the local tradition for the Laba Festival is to have noodles. In the morning, every household in the region enjoys noodles.
With customs varying across the country, what are you planning to eat at this year’s Laba Festival? Please let us know.