Today, the 8th day of the 12th lunar month, is Laba Festival (腊八节). According to Deng Ming-Dao’s The Lunar Tao:
Year-End Sacrifice on the Eighth Day, or the Laba Festival (Laba Jie), is a vestige of an old day of offering. La means “the year-end sacrifice” and “the twelfth moon.” Ba means “eight” and is a reference to the eighth day of the twelfth moon. The festival is also known as the Laji Festival, meaning the end-of-the-year festival. It originated more than three thousand years ago as a sacrificial ceremony in which the game captured during great hunts was offered to ancestors and gods.
By the Song dynasty (960-1279), Laba had also become an occasion for farmers to express their gratitude for good crops. Especially when the harvests had been good, the farmers showed their appreciation by making sacrifices to heaven and earth. In time, the Laba Festival’s main culinary symbol became Laba porridge.
Laba porridge consists of glutinous rice simmered with sugar for one hour and a half, with additional ingredients such as red beans, millet, sorghum, peas, dried lotus seeds, dried dates, mung beans, jujubes, peanuts, chestnuts, walnuts, almonds, or lotus seeds. In the north, Labo porridge is a sweet dish, but in the south it is a savory dish with soybeans, peanuts, broad beans, taro, water chestnuts, walnuts, vegetables, and diced meats. People tend to select eight ingredients to add to the rice and sugar, probably as a reference to the eight of Laba, and also because eight is considered a lucky number. (396)