The Tay people pay homage to the Kitchen God and pray to him for good fortune, joy, and abundance. The Tay view their wood stove as a sacred place, as they believe it is where the Fire Godfather resides.

Hoang Thi Nhuan, a cultural researcher in Cao Bang province, states that the square stove represents yin, while the Fire Godfather represents yang. The harmony and balance of yin and yang give birth to all things in the universe. On New Year’s Eve, every household burns a large wooden log, with one end representing the old year and the other end symbolizing the new year.

“On New Year’s Eve, our ancestors come back home to celebrate the occasion, so the house must be bright and warm. The weather is always chilly during this time. We have a saying – ‘warm as a flame, good as the old days’. The abundance of the past year will continue and grow in the new year. The flame will never die. Where there is a flame, there is life. On New Year’s Eve, an elderly person blows on the fire to make it blaze up and boils water to offer to the ancestors,” explains Nhuan.

Before lighting incense on the altar, she explains that the elderly person recites a prayer:

“When the new year arrives,

Kitchen God, please ignite,

Drive away and burn bad luck,
And bring in good fortune.

From now on, may it be as warm as a flame

And as serene as the past year.

The whole new year will be favorable.

We can do whatever we desire.

We can enjoy prosperity wherever we go.

When we travel, the wind and rain won’t trouble us.

We pray for the health and success of everyone.”

The Tay reside in mountainous forests where wood is abundant. During winter, their wood stove keeps the house warm. The kitchen shelf stores utensils and food, and the fire is kept burning continuously.

“The fire in the stove is always kept burning. The Tay wrap a torn piece of cloth on a stick to create a tinder to carry fire to the fields for burning grass. They burn hardwood branches to maintain hot embers for an extended period,” shares Nhuan.

According to Tay tradition, after completing the construction of a house, the first task is to build a clay stove 5-7cm below the floor, with either three flat stones or an iron tripod for cooking. The interior design may vary, but all houses share one common feature – the kitchen does not receive direct sunlight.

Once the kitchen is complete, the Tay hold a ceremony to invite the Fire God into the house. In the kitchen, there is an altar for the Kitchen God and the Fire God. A small bamboo altar with a bamboo incense burner is hung next to the kitchen. The space around the stove is spacious enough for several people to sit.

Luong Thiem Phu from Quang Ninh province discusses taboos related to the kitchen.

“Our ancestors taught us that it is forbidden to place one’s feet on the tripod or the stove, or to move the incense burner, as that is where the Fire God resides.”

“Other rules include handling logs with care, not chopping logs in the kitchen, refraining from spitting in or near the kitchen, and avoiding sitting with one’s back to the fire, as it is considered disrespectful to the Kitchen God. When placing a pot on the tripod, ensure the handle is vertical. Only in the event of a recent family death may the handle of a pot be horizontal.”

The Tay people’s way of life may be changing, but they still worship the Fire God and the Kitchen God. The eternal flame in the stove symbolizes unity and strong bonds among family members.