Talking about important holidays in Vietnam, it would be a shortcoming not to mention Tết or the Lunar New Year. Nonetheless, do you know that there exists another essential event which marks the end of a year cycle started off by the Lunar New Year? If the Day of Kitchen Gods is what you have in mind right now, congratulations! This is a correct answer! The day falls on the 23rd of Lunar December each year and requires numerous rules to be followed. In our disclosure below, we just listed down everything inside out to give you the best ultimate guide you ever need to learn about such interesting occasion.
What to know about this holiday? (Source: Google)
A comprehensive introduction of an essential Vietnam national ritual
The Gods of Kitchen make up a trio of deities. Those are known as Táo Quân or Táo Vương in Northern Vietnamese culture and Ông Táo in the Southern colloquial term. While in China legends, the Gods are written as 灶君 or 灶王.
As inferred from the initial name, the deities are in charge of all kitchen chores in each household. The single term “Táo” delivers a meaning of “Kitchen”.
A feast tray in a Vietnamese family (Source: Google)
According to Prof. Trần Ngọc Thêm, a remarkable Vietnamese linguistic and humanist, a year is kicked start by the event of the Lunar New Year and ends its cycle on the date of 23rd Lunar December. This day marks a national ritual in which all Vietnamese families make a farewell ceremony to their Kitchen Gods.
Kitchen God and his golden carp (Source: Google)
Until the 30th of December, the deities are turning back to the family and welcoming a new year coming. What to be inferred from this entire time moving system? The whole cycle is now becoming a self-contained process, in which Yin and Yang involve in a complete transformation.
As a part of the Vietnamese culture and tradition, the relationship between the Gods of Kitchen.
A statue of the God (Source: Google)
Derivation of the Kitchen Gods Day – China vs. Vietnam Showdown
The legend of Gods of Kitchen is recorded to be mentioned in the twilight of Chinese history. Numerous records claim that the Gods were first mentioned in the Shang Dynasty, which ruled ancient China from 1766 to 1122 B.C. Before the era of the Qin-Han Dynasties, the trio of Gods was listed as three of the five most important deities of peace and security for the families.
Returning to the heaven (Source: Google)
As time goes by, the Gods are now known to take charge of the kitchen chores. In many Chinese documents, only one God is responsible for the kitchen works, who is believed to be a male God, while some other Chinese localities, this is a Goddess.
Two other assistants are supposed to follow the deity, one of whom is “Good” while the other one is “Evil”. The “staff” is expected to keep a record listing all dwellers’ ethical and unrighteous acts.
Chinese Kitchen God (Source: Google)
“Táo Quân” in Vietnamese belief is a group of three Gods who derived from an ancient Chinese Taoism theory. However, unlike the belief of one God in charge, Vietnamese Gods of Kitchen engage in watching over the three compartments of land, house, and kitchen.
In the kitchen (Source: Google)
Though divided into three separate figures, Vietnamese people make it a common name as Táo Quân or Ông Táo instead of telling each apart. In Vietnamese history, the kitchen is the best fundamental section creating a family, which takes root from the early era when the cavemen discovered fire.
Meanwhile, land or soil is where everything in life derives from. Because of such, fire and land always play an essential role in the religious and mental life of the Việt citizens.
Must-have elements (Source: Google)
Talking about the Kitchen Gods Day, we Vietnamese all believe that Táo Quân is returning to heaven each year and reporting to the God of Heaven all activities and events occurring in the “living World” within the past year.
Hence, the Vietnamese tend to prepare a generous and captivating offering feast to the Gods, with a hope of being told about their best things in the previous year.
The making of joss paper (Source: Google)
Dignifying meaning coming along with the event
Accordingly, when it comes to the 23rd and 24th in Lunar December, the Kitchen Gods would be reporting all the good and bad people have done.
Like some other important holidays in Vietnam, an offering feast to the Kitchen Gods is prosperous and mouthwatering.
Preparing an offering (Source: Google)
Sweetened glutinous cake presents the most in any feast tray, which helps the Gods give out the sweetest and finest things about their hosts to the King of Heaven.
Worshipping procedure in Vietnam
When this day is around the corner, people all get ready by cleaning up the houses and altars. At the same time, some of the musts me be prepared and ready for the big day coming. This includes a tray of savory dishes, three pieces of joss-paper clothes, three alive carps, sticky rice, sweet soup dessert, incenses, and aromatic flowers.
Living carps in a basin (Source: Google)
Required fundamental offerings
- Diving into the detailed preparation behind, below are some required basic elements that cannot be left behind in any offering to the Kitchen Gods each year:
- Three deity hats, two of which are offered to the Gods with two wings on both sides and the other one is saved for the Goddess without two wings on the sides.
- One dress and a pair of shoes. All are made out of joss paper.
- Three alive carps, which represent as a mean of transportation for the deities on their way back to heaven.
Saigonese purchasing the items (Source: Google)
In Northern Vietnam, some of the families display a living carp in a basin full of water, which bears a meaning of a carp turning into a dragon, which then carries the Gods and takes off into the sky. This carp is then released back into nature through a pond, a lake or river after the worshipping procedure is over.
Prosperous treat (Source: Google)
Now, let’s take a look into how a generous feast tray is arranged. A full offer consists of the following:
- A plate of rice
- A plate of salt
- Five pieces of boiled pork
- A small bowl of vegetable soup
- A dish of fruits
- A hot pot of lotus tea
- Three cups of alcohol
- A pomelo
- Betel leaf and areca nuts
- Joss papers
- A carp fish
- A savory stir-fried food
- A dish of spiny bitter gourd sticky rice
Which food to prepare? (Source: Google)
Golden carps in a pond (Source: Google)
Other than these, the Việt housewives can choose to use chicken and spring rolls in replacement.
A vivid arrangement (Source: Google)
Depending on each specific situation, a family can arrange a different variation in terms of what to offer to the Gods. In terms of Fengshui, the colors of Gods’ dresses would also be changed in accordance with the Fengshui color in each year coming. This is believed to go along with the “Rule of Five Elements”, which represent for five different factors making up the current Universe. These are Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth.
The five elements (Source: Google)
One last part contributing to the importance of the Kitchen Gods Day in the religious life of Vietnamese people is several taboos, which include the Dos and Don’t’s requiring all to follow.
Making an offering (Source: Google)
- The best time to process the offering to the Gods of Kitchen lasts from the nighttime of the 22nd to early morning of the 23rd.
- The ritual should be made in between 11 am and 1 pm, which is thought to be the gathering time of all Gods before visiting the King of Heaven.
- If time allows, all families should process the offering from the 21st until 12 am the 23rd in Lunar December.
- During the procedure, when spotting two third of the incenses is burnt out, people must be then setting all the joss papers on fire and releasing the carps.
Releasing a golden carp (Source: Google)
- Process the ritual in the afternoon when 13:00 already passes.
- No “ghost money” usage is allowed in the offering.
- Do not tend to release the carps by the act of “tossing”, or “throwing” into the water.
- When releasing the fish, slightly and tenderly set them free by two hands.
- Do not place the offerings to the Kitchen Gods in the same Buddha altar.
The feast offered should be arranged on a small table on the ground, by the ancestor altar or in the kitchen where the Gods are believed to dominate. Otherwise, the tray can be set up outdoors in the front or backyard.
Lunar New Year (Source: Google)
Though the moment surrounding Tết is seen as one of the highest section in a year for traveling to Vietnam. Hence, some of you decide to get rid of this. This seems to be a bad idea that you are not able to witness a real Vietnam when the entire nation is rushing to their favorite important holidays in Vietnam. Do not hesitate to come over a local family and join in the fun life with the Việt natives.