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Laba Rice Porridge

Lunar December is called “腊月”in Chinese custom. Why it is called “腊月”? This origin is very early. It is said that since Zhou Dynasty, Chinese culture has called lunar December as “腊月”. In ancient agricultural society, every manner and Chinese culture custom is unavoidably related to agriculture production. Farmers ploughed in spring, weeded in summer, harvest in autumn and stored in winter. The first three seasons were very busy for them. They would be free only in winter of storing. Thus, people would hold grand fiesta in the end of harvest year to worship the heaven, earth and ancestors. In order to sacrifice for spirits and ancestors, they would have to hunt animals. The ancient books also called the activity of hunting for sacrifices as “腊”. Because this fiesta of “腊” was always held in lunar December, the twelfth lunar month which connects winter and spring, new and old was dominated as “腊月”. To pray for protection of gods, good luck and longevity, ancient Chinese would worship eight gods in total in lunar December. That’s why this month is also called “腊八”.

It is said that, the date of La Fiesta was not fixed before Han Dynasty, although it was held only in lunar December. Sometimes it was at the beginning of the month, while sometimes it was at the end of the month. Later in Six Dynasties, the date was settled on the 8th day of lunar December for people to remember easier. At that time, if there were too many hunted animals for sacrifice and couldn’t be eaten up in a short time, people would clean the meat and rub salt all over it, then dry it in order to be kept and eaten in the future. For the meat was left in La Fiesta, it was called “La Wei”(腊味). Nowadays, many people don’t know the origin or original meaning of “La”, but the custom of making and eating “腊味” is the same in whole China.In traditional Chinese culture, Chinese people eat Laba Rice Porridge in Laba.

Laba Rice Porridge

Laba Rice Porridge Festival is the beginning of Spring Festival. From this day, people will start preparing for celebrating New Year. In Chinese culture custom also calls this day as “小年”(small New Year). Every 8th day of lunar December, people will have the delicious and distinctive Laba Rice Porridge. This is also a tradition inherited from thousands of years. Laba Rice Porridge is simmered with sticky rice, red beans, dates, longans, ginkgos, pine nuts and carrots. Laba Rice Porridge in early days was only made of small red beans. As time goes by, the materials become different and they vary from place to place. Generally it is made of all kinds of rice, such as sticky rice, polished round-grained rice, millet, corn and sorghum; all kinds of beans, such as red beans, green beans, soybeans, peas and kidney beans; all kinds of dry fruits, such as dates, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, longans and pine nuts; then mixed with preserved fruits and vegetables. The best Laba Rice Porridge should be thick, soft and sticky. Both sweet and salty are good. Laba Rice Porridge has been a kind of interesting snacks for festival. Recent years, some producers even put this porridge in can and sell it as “八宝粥” all the year round.

Ancient people thought that eating Laba Rice Porridge can promote longevity. The famous traditional Chinese medicine doctor Li Shizhen used to record the functions of porridge as following, “porridge can tonify qi, promote the secretion of saliva or body fluid, nourish the stomach and cure deficiency-cold.” According to many other ancient books, the best food or medicine of highly nutritious value is porridge. If one can have a bowl of porridge every morning with empty stomach, his digestive system will be nourished and moistened and his body will be better day by day. Therefore, our Chinese Ethnic Peoples have the habit of having porridge as breakfast since the past.

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