Vietnamese throughout the country are busy readying their households for the traditional storied trip of Vietnam’s family god to heaven on Thursday.
In Vietnamese culture, the Kitchen Gods are characters regarded as part of the family meant to serve as a link between heaven and earth.
As the legend goes, the gods ride a common carp every year to heaven on the 23rd day of the twelfth Vietnamese lunar month, several days before Tet (Lunar New Year), in order to report to the heavenly emperor on any of the family’s problems or deeds, good or bad, from the year.
Tet begins on Feburary 16 and celebrations are normally ongoing during the week before and after the date.
|Dishes offered to the Vietnamese Kitchen Gods. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, Hanoi|
Accordingly, Vietnamese people attach significance to this year-end departure by tidying the kitchen and making offerings on a specially designed alter.
In advance of the event, throngs of young mothers and women took to social media to share their preparations and tips for the special day.
Nhu Trang, a Hanoi resident, created trays of offerings for the Kitchen Gods' journey, each filled with appetizing prepared foods, fruits, and peach blossoms – northern Vietnam’s symbol for Tet.
Hung Giang, another Hanoi resident, shared recipes for fried spring rolls, carp-shaped xoi (sweet food made of glutinous rice), and cha lua (Vietnamese pork sausage) on social media so that others might provide them for the Kitchen Gods.
Thanh Truc, in Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City, prepared for the Kitchen Gods' journey by making 200 colorful pieces of banh troi nuoc – literally, ‘food floating in water’ – a type of sweet glutinous rice filled with mung bean and bathed in grated ginger liquid.
|Food shaped in the form of common carp. Photo courtesy of To Hung Giang, Hanoi|
She plans to sell the banh troi nuoc to others who wish to celebrate the occasion.
“I really enjoy cooking and it helps me cover the school fees I need to pay after the Tet holiday,” Truc said.
Biscuits fashioned in the form of common carp are also typically in strong demand this time of the year, according to Van Hien, in District 4, Ho Chi Minh City.
This year, a campaign to make celebratory activities focus on more than just food seems to be making its way through several online communities.
“There’s a recurrent problem of throwing nylon bags, paper ash, and alter decorations into rivers, causing pollution,” wrote Nguyen Thanh Hien, a member of the social group of 'otofun.'
Hien is referring to the traditional practice of releasing common carp into rivers and lakes as a way to provide the Kitchen Gods with a means of transport to heaven.
|Young Vietnamese collect litter at Thien Quang Lake, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi. Photo: Water Wise Vietnam|
Unfortuatnely, the carp are often accompanied by plastic containers and environmentally unfriendly offering items.
“Free the fish, but don’t leave rubbish in rivers,” he suggested.
In Hanoi, a campaign named ‘The Kitchen Gods loathe plastic bags’ is discouraging littering in public waterways.
Students joining the campaign wear bright robes and accessories typically associated with the gods and collect trash from Thien Quang Lake in Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi.
The event aims to heighten the public awareness for the cleanliness of the lake and city, according to Nguyen Duc Anh, deputy manager of Water Wise Vietnam, the campaign’s organizer.