In Chinese, Laba means ‘gold eighth’ which refers to the commencement of Chinese New Year celebrations on the eighth day of the last lunar month.
Rooted in the Buddhist faith, the festival is believed to rise and flourish from the stew of religious Sakyamuni. Abandoning home to strive for virtue, the passionate man fainted from hunger before achieving any of his ambitions. The Buddha would not allow for this unparalleled fearlessness to end so quickly. A shepherdess coincidentally passing by saved Sakyamuni by feeding him glutinous rice and bean porridge. After the nourishing meal, Sakyamuni meditated under a bodhi tree and found Buddhism. Believers cook Laba Zhou to commemorate this momentous incident and recount the impact Buddhism has on their own lives.
Often, Chinese holidays do not stem from one particular legend, rather multiple due to the different lifestyles and ethos of vast regions and dynasties. The Laba Festival is also believed to teach home economics to children– how to manage the groceries, budget, and waste. One winter, a wasteful man faced his consequence and ran out of food. Luckily, his savvy neighbor provided him the same grains the man had dumped earlier that week, still in its fresh condition. By cooking an embarrassing, guilty stew of grains and beans, the wasteful man’s laba zhou teaches children thriftiness in managing a household.
Customarily, families prepare the stew the night before the holiday, allowing the aromas to seap into bedrooms throughout the night and overwhelm the nostrils at first breath.