12 January 2019 by Christina Barker
This traditional, pre-Chinese New Year, holiday promotes good fortune for the coming year.
‘La’ is a Chinese character with the meaning of offering sacrifices to gods and ancestors. ‘Ba’ is the number eight. The festival falls on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month. This falls on the 13th January this year.
The festival was not traditionally celebrated on a particular date until the influence of Buddhism came along - much later during the southern and northern dynasties. This is when the fixed date was allocated.
Although more recently the Laba festival celebrates the enlightenment of Buddha, more traditionally it is our opportunity to wish for good fortune and to pray for a good harvest in the coming year. This is why the festival falls so close to Chinese New Year.
Laba Congee is the speciality dish of the day! Created from a variety of nuts, grains, beans and many other variations it is quite dissimilar to the sweet delicacy that is Moon Cake, eaten on the day of Mid-Autumn Festival. This customary tradition is less practised in the modern day, but you can find lots of recipes on the internet.
Laba congee a porridge-like, healthy dish and is believed to help people get energy before the busy work in the New Year.
After Laba, people start to prepare for the New Year and there are other dates related to the lead up to New Year too, for example, the 23rd December in lunar calendar is called Pass Little Nian (pre-New Year) and the Lantern Festival on 11th February (Western calendar) is called little Pass Nian meaning Little New Year or end of New Year.
Our video, here, hears Lucy telling children about the story of Pass Nian.
Whilst learning of Traditional Chinese celebrations and festivals, such as the Laba Festival, you will come to realise that our celebrations all have something in common… They are focused very much on an appreciation for what we have. We say thanks and we pray. Our traditions, like many other traditions around the world, are respectful to our gods, our neighbours and to our land.