In Chinese, Laba means ‘gold eighth’ and refers to the traditional start of celebrations for the Chinese Lnuar New Year – the eighth day of the last lunar month.
On this day a special hot rice porridge, called Laba Zhou, which contains glutinous rice, red beans, millet, Chinese sorghum, peas and some other ingredients such as dried dates, chestnut meat, walnut meat, almond, peanut and dried lotus seeds is eaten. On the previous night, people will begin the preparation and stew the porridge at about midnight. It won’t give off an attractive smell until the next morning. The flavor varies from place to place, in the North, it is a dessert with sugar added; in the South,Â salt and seasonal vegetables are put in.
This tradition has its roots in the Buddhist faith. It is said when Sakyamuni left home and strived for virtue, he fainted on the way because of hunger and tiredness. A shepherdess passing by saved him and cooked him some porridge with glutinous rice and nuts. Then Sakyamuni sat under a bodhi tree in meditation and found Buddhism. So later the believers formed the habit of cooking Laba Zhou to commemorate it.
There is another interesting story about Laba Zhou. in the past there was a man who ld a waterful life and eventually he ran out of food one winter. His neighbor gave him the grain he had previously dumped and the man used to cool porridge. Afterwards eating Laba Zhou was to teach children thrift in managing household.
Another custom is to prepare Laba vinegar for Jiaozi on New Year Eve. People will skn some garlic and put them in the vinegar. It will have a distinctive flavor with the passing of time by.