The 23rd day of the last month of every lunar year is when the Kitchen Gods return to Heaven to report to the Jade Emperor what happened on earth during the year. On this day, Vietnamese families prepare a feast to worship their ancestors and teach their offspring to do good deeds.

For most Vietnamese, Tet (Lunar New Year) festival has actually begun with the “Ong Cong - Ong Tao” (or Land Genie and Kitchen Gods) ceremony on the 23rd of the last month of the lunar year, which falls on February 8 this year.

On this day, every family is busy staging a farewell ceremony for the Land Genie and the Kitchen Gods on their yearly visit of Heaven.

As the legend goes, the Land Genie and the Kitchen Gods will ride carps to Heaven on the day to deliver an annual report on the household’s activities to the God of Heaven.

Special offerings are made for the Land Genie and Kitchen Gods ceremony. Among other things, feasts and golden carps are indispensable.

“My family always chooses healthy red carps. After finishing the ceremony, we release the carps to a nearby river,” said Pham Thi Kim Dung from Hai Ba Trung district, Hanoi

Meanwhile, Truong Minh Tuan, a resident in Hoang Mai district, Hanoi said on the day, his family prepare a feast for the Kitchen’s Gods, they are all traditional dishes such as chicken, Chung (square glutinous rice) cake, and Vietnamese meatball and pork rind soup.

The Kitchen Gods, the guardian spirit of the kitchen, are believed to comprise two male gods and one female, who bless the household and keep up the kitchen fire, making every member of the family happy and well-off.

As the gods make their journey on the back of fish, it is traditional to release live carps into lakes or rivers, which is considered a kindhearted deed to pray for good luck.

Nguyen Ngoc Mai, a belief expert from the Institute for Religious Studies said: “When we don’t really understand the meaning of the offerings we will feel we want to buy everything, but it’s not true. The offerings don’t need to be too costly, or sophisticated. It depends on each family’s condition.” However, indispensable votive offerings should have a set of paper costumes for the Kitchen Gods, a tray of five fruits and carp, she added.

The fire in the kitchen is the symbol of not only warm family union, but also a bumper harvest and agricultural development of Vietnamese people. The custom of worshipping the Kitchen Gods reflects Vietnamese’s respect of family happiness./.