The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, has more than 4,000 years of history and is the longest holiday of the year. In the 21st century, the national holiday begins on the first of the Lunar Calendar and lasts until the 15th of the first month. In 2018, Chinese New Year begins on February 5th and ends February 19th.

In China, all stores are closed during the first five days of the Spring Festival, with some not opening until the very end. People must stock up on New Year supplies (年货—nian huo) beforehand and many begin on the Laba Festival. Kitchens will also show the first signs of Spring Festival dishes with the preparation of cured meat, salted fish and other preserved food.

The Laba festival

However, in the traditional sense, the Laba Festival (腊八节—Làbā jié) of the lunar December (January 13th, 2019) marks the beginning of the Spring Festival. Memorial ceremonies are held on this day to pray to ancestors and gods (such as door gods) for fortune and a successful harvest. Though paganist in nature, the festival has become integrated into religions such as Daoism and Buddhism.

The main food for this festival is the Laba porridge (腊八粥—Làbā zhōu). It includes seven types of grains, such as red bean, red dates and husked rice. There are many different myths regarding this porridge, but all teach the lesson of being grateful and not taking what you have for granted.

In addition, the Laba menu includes Laba tofu (腊八豆腐—Làbā dòufu), noodles (腊八面—Làbā miàn) and wheat kernel rice (麦仁饭—Mài rén fàn). It is also said that eating ice on this day will prevent any stomachaches for the year.

  • Reprinted from Chinese New Year (dot net)