- Gordon Dumoulin
The official countdown to Spring Festival
While the Christmas and New year festivities have come to an end in many societies, last Thursday started the official countdown towards the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) in China through the 腊八 (LaBa) Festival on the 8th day of the 12th month in the lunar year.
Legends about the origin of this festival go back over 3,000 years ago when sacrificial rites called La (腊) were held in the twelfth lunar month when people offered up their preys to the gods of heaven and earth for a good harvest and fortune in the coming year. The Chinese characters for prey (猎物) and the twelfth month (腊 La) were interchangeable then, and ever since La has been used to refer to both.
Since the festival was held on the eighth day of the Last month, people later appended the number eight (八, ba in Chinese), giving the current name LaBa.
Nowadays it is the official countdown to the upcoming Spring Festival. Traditional foods for the LaBa Festival are nutritious rice porridges (congees) filled with mixed rice, beans, and various types of nuts and dates. Also LaBa garlic is renowned, especially in the North of China. LaBa garlic is preserved garlic in vinegar, getting a particular green color and often eaten together with fatty lamb meats or dumplings.