The “Ong Cong – Ong Tao” (Land Genie and Kitchen God) or the “Kitchen God” farewell ritual which falls on 4 February this year, is one of the most important for the Vietnamese people in a new Lunar Year, which kick off the Tet celebration in the country.
|The offerings for Kitchen God farewell ritual. Photo: To Hung Giang
Traditionally, the kitchen god farewell ritual is usually observed on the 23rd day of the last month of the lunar year. Legend has it that Land Genie and the Kitchen God are sent down to earth by the God of Heaven for monitoring and recording all the good or bad manners of the human during the year.
Then, on the 23rd day of the twelve months in the Lunar Calendar, they ride carps to Heaven to deliver an annual report on the household’s activities to the Jade Emperor.
According to this report, the Jade Emperor will decide to bless or punish that family in the next year. Also, he will forward the household prayer for a prosperous and peaceful Lunar Year to the Supreme.
Kitchen God farewell ritual is a very old custom in Vietnam. According to legend, Land Genie is the god who governs the land in the house, and Kitchen God is a trinity of a wife and her two husbands who take care of the kitchen. Both of them take care of ensuring the family’s happiness and well-being.
|Each family in each region throughout Vietnam has their own ways of preparing offerings for the Kitchen Gods. Photo: Ngo Phuong Lan
On this day, every family is busy staging a ceremony to see off the Land Genie and the Kitchen God of the household who will embark on their yearly journey to Heaven.
Preparing a hearty worshiping tray filled with abundant of votive offers, somehow, is the way that Vietnamese families show their thankfulness to the deities. At the same time, they also wish that the Land Genie and the Kitchen God will tell the good things about them to the Jade Emperor, as well as asking, on their behalf, for a peaceful and prosperous coming New Year.
Each family in each region throughout Vietnam has their own ways of preparing offerings for the Kitchen Gods. Common offerings include incense, flowers, fruit, betel and areca nuts, sticky rice, chicken, pork paste, spring rolls, and bamboo shoot soup.
Indispensable offerings for the ritual are votive paper shoes, robes, mandarin bonnets, and paper or alive carps, which the Kitchen Gods can ride to Heaven.
|The Kitchen God farewell ritual kicks off the Tet celebration in the country. Photo: Dau Tra Mi.
In the north, households usually prepare three little alive carps or goldfishes on a small bowl, placing next to the offering tray on the altar.
In addition, the image of carp also conveyed the aspiration of “Carp transforms to Dragon”, which implies sublimation, persistent spirit to conquer knowledge and success.
In the Central region, it is common to worship paper horses with full harnesses. In the South, only paper horses and hats are prepared.
After the ritual, the paper tents are burned, live tents are released into the nearby lake or rivers, which is considered a kind act to pray for good luck, then the most famous Vietnamese festival officially starts, the Tet.