Free Laba porridge from temple for blessings
Thousands of residents waited in a long line at the Jade Buddha Temple to taste the “Laba” congee for the traditional Laba Festival on Sunday.
The abbot Juexing along with temple monks and volunteers began dishing out a total of 5,000 bowls of hot Laba porridge to the public from 9:30am. The earliest resident came to wait in front of the temple from 3am.
Laba means the eighth day of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. It also marks the enlightenment day of the Buddha. The festival has been celebrated for some 1,500 years.
The residents, mostly seniors, waited from the temple gate to the pedestrian ways along Jiangning and Xinhui roads. Most agreed the congee symbolizes blessings from the temple rather than a chance for a free snack. Some said they would take the congee back to seniors or children at home.
"I've been waiting in front of the temple from 5am. I come every year and it has become a tradition for me to celebrate the festival and the coming Spring Festival," said a senior worshipper surnamed Deng.
As Laba falls in the last lunar month, it serves as a prelude for the Lunar New Year, which will be on February 5 this year. The recipe for the congee varies, but the traditional dish usually contains grain, dried lotus seeds, longan, gingko, dried red dates, chestnuts, peanuts, walnuts, raisins and melon seeds.
"It is nice to witness so many delighted people celebrate the traditional festival together," said Ken Ferguson, a traveler from United States who learnt the history of the temple and the traditional festival on the Internet. "I might also join the line to try the congee myself," he said.
The temple has begun distributing Laba congee on the festival since 2009. Additional servings were given out to 2,000 seniors of nursing homes across the city on Sunday.