Kitchen God Vietnam or Táo Quân: Celebrating the Kitchen God Day on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month holds significant importance as a prelude to the Lunar New Year in Vietnam.
Annually, rituals are conducted to bid farewell to the Kitchen God and send him on his journey to heaven.
The Mythical Origins of the Land Genie and Kitchen God Worship Ceremony
The tradition of Tao Quan finds its roots in the Chinese Taoist deities Tho Cong, Tho Dia, and Tho Ky, which underwent Vietnamese transformation into the legend of “Two men and one woman” – namely, the God of Earth, the God of House, and the God of Kitchen.
According to folklore, Thi Nhi, the female protagonist, was married to Trong Cao. Despite their passionate union, they remained childless, leading to frequent quarrels. In a moment of anger over a trivial matter, Cao committed a grave mistake by assaulting Thi Nhi and driving her away.
Thi Nhi, now estranged, wandered to another land where she encountered Pham Lang. The two fell in love and became husband and wife. Meanwhile, Trong Cao, regretful and missing his wife, embarked on a quest to find her. Reduced to a beggar after days of fruitless searching, Cao coincidentally sought alms at Thi Nhi’s residence while Pham Lang was away.
Recognizing her ex-husband, Thi Nhi invited Cao inside and prepared a meal for him. However, fearing unfair suspicions from her current husband, she asked Cao to hide under a pile of straw in the back garden. Tragically, that night, Pham Lang, unaware of Cao’s presence, set fire to the straw to use the ashes as fertilizer. In a bid to rescue her ex-husband, Thi Nhi jumped into the fire, prompting Pham Lang to follow suit. The three perished in the flames.
In recognition of their poignant tale, the Jade Emperor appointed them as the kitchen deities. Tho Cong, the new husband, took charge of the kitchen, Tho Dia, the old husband, managed household affairs, and Tho Ky, the wife, oversaw market matters.
Kitchen God Day: On the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month each year, Vietnamese families observe a ritualistic tradition, offering a tray of offerings to bid farewell to the Kitchen God. During this ceremony, it is believed that the Kitchen God ascends to heaven to report on the deeds, both good and bad, of the families.
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Significance Behind the Ritual of Honoring the Land Genie and the Kitchen God Vietnam
In Vietnamese tradition, the Kitchen God serves not only as the overseer of household activities but also as a guardian against demonic intrusions, ensuring the tranquility of the family. Consequently, the ritual of worshiping the Kitchen God holds a dual significance: it serves as a prayer for prosperity and abundance, followed by the acknowledgment of the culinary prowess embodied by the revered “Kitchen God.”
On this auspicious day, a symbolic tray of rice is meticulously prepared to convey gratitude to the deities. Simultaneously, the occasion becomes a cherished opportunity for individuals and families to reunite and gather after a year of toil and hard work.
An intriguing aspect of the offering tray is the inclusion of carp, typically around 2-3 fish in a basin of water. Following the worship, people partake in the symbolic act of releasing these animals into rivers and lakes. This gesture symbolizes the preparation of a celestial conveyance for the Kitchen God to ascend to heaven.
Moreover, the inclusion of carp carries a profound connotation of “fish surpassing Vu Mon” or “carp transforming into a dragon.” The carp, laden with symbolic significance, represents the spirit of elevation, resilience in overcoming challenges, and steadfast determination leading to eventual success.
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Ritualistic Offerings to the Land Genie and the Kitchen God in Vietnam
The traditional Vietnamese offerings to the Land Genie and the Kitchen God encompass a symbolic array, including the Genie’s distinctive hat, carp symbolizing their mode of transport, gold money, a shirt, a pair of paper shoes, and a comprehensive tray of offerings.
The Genie’s hat consists of three pieces: two men’s hats and one woman’s hat, with Mr. Kitchen Gods wearing hats with wings and Mrs.Kitchen Gods without. Many opt to present a set of the Land Genie’s hat (featuring two dragon wings) to encapsulate the symbolic essence.
The carp, whether crafted from paper or real, symbolizes the Land Genie and the Kitchen God’s means of transportation. While the Vietnamese Northern people often witnesses the offering of live carp submerged in a basin of water, symbolizing the transformation from carp to dragon, the Vietnamese Southern people typically employs paper carp.
The traditional offering tray for the Land Genie and the Kitchen God varies, encompassing items such as rice, salt, wine, boiled pork, roasted chicken, stir-fried vegetables, salted onions, red-colored sticky rice, pork trotters, meatball soup, grilled carp (with grilled snakehead fish being common in the South), fresh fruit, tea, wine, betel nut, hell banknotes, joss paper, a jar of chrysanthemums, and a small jar of peach blossoms.
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Conclusion for Kitchen God Vietnam Worship 2024
Kitchen God day, December 23 (lunar calendar) this year corresponds to Friday, February 2, 2024 (solar calendar).
In contemporary times, the Kitchen God Vietnam feast has evolved to accommodate regional cultures, economic circumstances, and individual preferences. Families can tailor the offering tray to their means and preferences. A simplified offering of three dishes may suffice if resources are limited. Notably, each region maintains its unique characteristics in the offerings to the Kitchen God.
Equally crucial is the placement of the Kitchen God offering tray, emphasizing the need for a solemn display either at the ancestral altar or the dedicated Kitchen God altar to convey utmost respect.