I may have to ask her more about this dish and its various legends.
How wonderful are these stories and legends about Chinese food, Chinese customs and traditions.
On the eighth day of the lunar month prior to Chinese New Year, a traditional porridge known as làbāzhōu (臘八粥) is served in remembrance "of an ancient festival, called Là, that occurred shortly after the winter solstice". Làyuè (臘月) is a term often associated with Chinese New Year as it refers to the sacrifices held in honor of the gods in the twelfth lunar month, hence the cured meats of Chinese New Year are known as làròu (臘肉).
The porridge was prepared by the women of the household at first light, with the first bowl offered to the family's ancestors and the household deities. Every member of the family was then served a bowl, with leftovers distributed to relatives and friends. It's still served as a special breakfast on this day in some Chinese homes. (Source: wikipedia)
http://spirittourism.com/culture/chinese/laba-zhou-traditions-chinese-year-2012/According to my Buddhist friend, the labazhou may have its origin in India where Buddhism originated.
Buddha saw enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi tree on the eighth day of the 12th month of the Lunar Year. So when you eat porridge on the eighth day’s the 12th month each year people commemorate him.
Today the Chinese Buddhists eat a special porridge made from glutinous rice, red beans, millet, Chinese sorghum, peas and another ingredients, for example dried dates, chestnut meat, walnut meat, almond, peanut, dried lotus seeds and etc. The ingredients are prepared the night before. Individuals will begin the preparation and stew the porridge at about midnight. The flavor differs from place to place, in the North (China), it’s a dessert with sugar added; in the South, salt and seasonal vegetables they fit in.
There’s another interesting story about Laba Zhou. In the past there is a man who led a wasteful life and eventually he ran from food one winter. His neighbor gave him the grain he dumped before and cooked the porridge. Afterwards eating Laba Zhou would be to teach children thrift in managing household.