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For many Vietnamese people, one week before Tet is as important as the Lunar New Year.
That day, the 23rd day of the lunar December, Vietnamese traditionally make a lot of offerings to Ong Tao, or the Gods/Guardians of kitchen, to bid farewell to them. Legend has it that Ong Tao fly to heaven and report to the Emperor what their host families did in the past year.
As the custom has changed over the centuries, many people, especially young ones, struggle to find ways to observe the traditional day appropriately without spending excessive time and money.
If you face the same problem, here are some tips for you.
Cleaning up your kitchen
Whether you are making the offering ritual in the kitchen or at your ancestor’s altar, your kitchen must be clean and tidy, as it is, according to Vietnamese belief, is the home of Ong Tao. And, you sure do not want to let the Kitchen Gods live in a messy place on such an important day.
Even when you are not a believer, but someone who simply wants to observe a traditional custom, you still need to clean up your kitchen. Why? Because kitchen is the place where your family bond over meals, and the venue of many family activities during Tet. A tidy and bright kitchen will inspire and refresh you more than you think.
Flexible with offerings
According to some records, traditional offerings for the Gods of Kitchen include 1 saucer of rice, 1 saucer of salt, 5 grams of cooked pork, 1 bowl of pork meatball soup, 1 plate of stir-fried vegetables, 1 plate of pork sausage, 1 fried carp fish (or living carp fish), 1 plate of Gac sticky rice, 1 plate of mung bean paste, 1 plate of fruits, 1 pot of lotus tea, 3 cups of rice alcohol, 1 grapefruit, 1 areca palm fruit, betel leaves, 1 vase of apricot blossoms, 1 vase of daisy flowers, 1 stack of votive paper, including money, clothes and shoes.
However, if you want to go for something simple, you can replace foods with fruits, cookies and sweets. But, you should never forget carp fish, as the Kitchen Gods would ride it to heaven, according to the legend. Currently, many families in the north still offer living carp fish and release them after the ritual. Meanwhile, in the south, Ong Tao are often offered paper horses and storks.
Strict with time of offering
The offering ritual often takes place around noon and must not be later than 1 p.m. But, if you have to go to work that day, you can do it early in the morning.
Häfele Vietnam hopes that with these tips, you and your family with have a meaningful Kitchen God Day in a traditional way, as we are welcoming the Year of Rooster 2017!