|Official name||Làbā Jié (臘八節, 腊八节)|
|Significance||Celebrates the new harvest|
|Observances||consumption of laba congee|
|Date||8th day of the 12th lunar month|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2009)|
The Laba Festival (Chinese:臘八節/腊八节) is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the lunar Chinese calendar (known as Layue, or in Chinese， 臘月）). In China, it is customary on this day to eat Laba Congee. The Laba Festival had not been on a fixed day until the Southern and Northern dynasties, when it was influenced by Buddhism and got a fixed time on the eighth day of twelfth month, which was also the enlightenment day of the Buddha. Therefore, many customs of the Laba Festival are related to Buddhism.
Before the Qin Dynasty Laba festival was a celebration of the new harvest.
After Buddhism spread to China during the first century AD, the festival was used as commemoration of Gautama Buddha's enlightenment at the age of 35. In the Qing dynasty, ceremonies for the Laba festival would have been held in the Yonghe Temple in Beijing.
Traditionally, the consumption of Laba Congee (臘八粥) was an important element of the festival. In Northeast China, Northwest China and Jiangnan, this custom has been preserved, but it has become rarer in South China. On the first day of spring the government would hold a ceremony called “Beating Spring Ox” with the purpose of encouraging farming. Officials would use a colorful club to beat an earthen ox after worshiping the God of Grain; this was the so-called “Scourging Spring”. Even today, people in some places name Spring Begins as Beating Spring. After the ritual of “Beating Spring”, people would compete in grabbing the scattered pieces of the earthen ox, which would dispel pests or ants, and bring them good harvest in farming and abundant production of silk and livestock.
Another custom is the soaking of Laba garlic. Garlic is soaked in vinegar for twenty days starting from the Laba festival. The garlic and vinegar is then used alongside Chinese dumplings (or jiaozi) around Chinese New Year.
Other congees are made of mixed rice, beans and various types of nuts and dates. Sometimes the congee is decorated with coloured sweets or dried fruits.
Another Laba food is Laba garlic, which is particularly popular in northern China. Garlic in Chinese, suan, shares the same pronunciation with 'calculate'
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