The Cow's Birthday


Once there was a village with very fertile soil. Farmers only had to scatter rice seeds into the paddy fields, and it would grow on its own. As the farmers had nothing else to do, they gathered at a carpenter's workshop to chat every day. The carpenter's name was Mo Dou, and he could not concentrate on his work because the farmers were too noisy. So, he handed his apprentice a magical bag of sawdust. He told the apprentice to go to the paddy fields each morning, and scatter a little pinch of sawdust. This would make weeds grow in the paddy fields, and keep the farmers busy. Alas! The apprentice was too lazy to scatter sawdust in the paddy fields each morning, so, he poured the whole bag of sawdust onto the field instead. In the end, the paddy fields were overgrown with weeds, and all the rice withered and died.

Mo Dou saw the trouble that his apprentice caused, and turned him into a cow as punishment. He ordered the cow to help the farmers till the fields and get rid of the weeds. However, even after turning into a cow, the apprentice continued to be lazy. When asked to till the fields, he would say, “I am too tired today!” Or, “I am too hungry to work!” The lazy cow was so full of excuses that Buddha decided to teach him a lesson. He drove a nail into the cow's chin to stop the cow from complaining. After that, the cow could only work hard. Till today, you can still see a nail-like bump on the cow's chin.

Since cows love to eat glutinous rice balls, people made the day of the winter solstice The cow's birthday. On that day, they would feed the cows glutinous rice balls, and glue a round nail on its horns and forehead. Also, to thank the cows for their hard work throughout the year, they let them rest on the day of the winter solstice.