【双语】The Story of Laba Congee, the Prelude of Chinese Lunar New Year

Wednesday marks the Laba Festival in China, a prelude to the traditional Spring Festival, which falls on the eighth day of Layue, the twelfth and last month of the Chinese lunar calendar. In the cold weather, the festival is godsend – a blessing in a bowl of rice porridge.

这个周三是中国的腊八节,中国传统节日春节的前奏。这一天是中国农历第十二个月腊月的第八天。在寒冷的天气里,这个节日是天赐良机—— 来自一碗粥的祝福。

For days now, people in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, have been queuing up outside the Lingyin Temple, waiting patiently for a hot bowl of Laba congee to warm them up as temperatures go down.

今天,在中国东部的浙江杭州,人们一直在灵隐寺门外排队,耐心地等待着一碗热气腾腾的腊八粥。

The distribution of the congee begins on the first day of the month and lasts until midday on Laba Festival – this has been the tradition since 2008 after the custom was restored.

自2008这一习俗恢复以来,每年从腊月初一开始,该寺的“施粥”活动一直持续到腊八节中午。

But what is so special about the ceremonial congee that people brace the winter wind for a ladle of the chunky soup?

但是,人们冒着严寒等待的一碗礼仪之粥有什么特别之处呢?

A flavorful history
美味历史

The Laba Festival is traditionally a ritual to worship the ancestors and gods. The Chinese character "La" means the transition from the old to the new, and Layue is the month when people present their harvested food at altars.

腊八节是一个传统的祭祀祖先和神灵的仪式。汉字“腊”意味着从旧的过渡到新的,而腊月是人们在祭坛展现收成的月份。

The festival was later influenced by Buddhism and the eighth day of the last lunar month was set during the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589) to celebrate it, coinciding with the enlightenment day of Buddha.

后来在南北朝时期(公元420-589年),这个节日受佛教影响,于农历最后一个月的第八天来庆祝,恰逢如来佛祖启蒙日。

The tradition of eating Laba congee during the festival could be traced back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). From the imperial court to ordinary people, cooking the congee was a seasonal must. They not only cooked the dish for their own family members, but also sent it to others as a gift.

腊八节吃腊八粥的传统可以追溯到宋代(960-1279)。从朝廷到百姓,煮粥是一个季节性的必然。他们不仅为自己的家人烹制这道菜,还把它作为礼物送给别人。

The Laba Festival was also a day of charity. Wealthy families would prepare a huge pot to cook the congee and distribute it to the poor. It is also during that time that Buddhist temples began to offer Laba congee to their visitors.

腊八节还是积德行善之日。有钱的家庭会准备一个大锅来煮粥,然后分发给穷人。也正是那时候,佛教寺庙开始给客人提供腊八粥。

The congee's components
腊八粥的成分

Part of the reason why people are crazy about the congee is because of its richness in nutrients and delicious flavor. Traditionally, the congee is made with rice, beans, peanuts, dried fruits and lotus seeds. Flavor aside, some of the ingredients have profound connotations in Chinese culture.

人们之所以喜欢粥,是因为它营养丰富,味道鲜美。传统上,粥是用大米、豆类、花生、干果和莲子做成的。此外,有些食材在中国文化中有着深刻的内涵。

For instance, red beans represent the feeling of longing for the beloved, while lotus seeds are believed to carry the meaning of fertility. Jujubes are auspicious, while longans (also known as dragon's eyes) depict prosperity and wealth.

例如,红豆代表渴望爱人的感觉,而莲子被认为具有生育意义。枣是吉祥的象征,而龙眼(也被称为龙的眼睛)则描绘了繁荣和富有。

All the ingredients are carefully rinsed and soaked in clean water for hours, and then boiled for a whole night. In the past, people would boil the mixture the night before the festival and heat it on low fire the next morning.

所有食材都经过仔细的清洗,在清水中浸泡数小时,然后煮一整夜。在过去,人们会在节日前夜把混合的食材煮沸,然后在第二天早晨把它放在低火上加热。

However, family members would never be the first to taste the congee. It was usually presented to the ancestors at the altar first, and then part of it would be sent to the neighbors, relatives and friends. It's a virtue in traditional Chinese culture to put others before oneself.

然而,家庭成员永远不会是第一个品尝粥的人。它通常先在祭坛上送给祖先,然后一部分送给邻居、亲戚和朋友。优先考虑他人是中国传统文化的一种美德。

After sharing the porridge with others, a family can finally sit down and enjoy a bowl of the steaming hot congee. The dish tastes even better with Laba garlic – vinegar-preserved garlic that balances sour and spicy flavors.

与他人分享粥后,一家人终于可以坐下来享受一碗热气腾腾的粥。配上酸辣可口的醋蒜和腊八蒜,这道菜味道更好。

Although some of the festival's traditions have gradually faded, Laba congee is still loved and longed for by many Chinese people.

虽然节日的一些传统逐渐消失,腊八粥仍然受到许多中国人的青睐。

The distribution ritual of the congee has also been preserved. Temples as well as restaurants cook and hand out Laba congee on the day of the festival to sanitation workers and senior people who live alone.

“施粥”仪式也被保存了下来,寺庙以及餐馆还煮腊八粥分给环卫工人和独居的老年人。

More than just a bowl of porridge
不仅是一碗粥

In recent years, many traditions that were slowly dying out have been restored, as local governments around the country push forward with the rejuvenation of the Chinese culture. The Laba Festival rituals of the Lingyin Temple were listed as a local intangible cultural heritage at the end of 2017.

近年来,随着中国各地政府大力推进中华民族文化的复兴,许多正在慢慢消亡的传统得以恢复。在2017年底灵隐寺的腊八节仪式被列为当地的非物质文化遗产。

Distribution of Laba congee is not confined to the Lingyin Temple, but Buddhist worshiping places around the country serve up the warm porridge. In Beijing, the Yonghegong Lama Temple and the Tanzhe Temple are the go-to places for Laba congee.

“施粥”仪式并不局限于灵隐寺,崇尚佛教的地方仍提供热气腾腾的粥。在北京,雍和宫和潭柘寺也是腊八粥“施粥”仪式的好去处。

Every year, thousands of people line up there since the early morning for the bowl of goodness, looking for nothing more than having good luck in the year to come and sharing with others the warmth of giving and receiving in the cold winter.

每年这天的清晨,成千上万的人站在那里,等待着美好的一天,只希望在即将到来的一年里有好运,并与他人在寒冷的冬天分享给予和收获的温暖。

(英语俱乐部学习网独家编译;英文来源:CGTN)

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