​American joins Vietnamese volunteers to clean up trash on Kitchen Gods’ Day

The volunteers helped prevent pollution during a traditional celebration in Hanoi

Scott Matt collects plastic bags under Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi on February 8, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A young American man joined Vietnamese volunteers in cleaning up litter under a bridge in Hanoi on the traditional Kitchen Gods’ Day on Thursday.

While many were busy preparing for the rite and performing traditional rituals to mark the Kitchen Gods’ heavenward journey, a group of young volunteers were doing their best to keep certain traditions from affecting the local environment.

In Vietnamese culture, the Kitchen Gods are characters regarded as part of the family and meant to serve as a link between heaven and earth.

According to the legend, the gods ride common carp to heaven on the 23rd day of the twelfth Vietnamese lunar month, several days before the Lunar New Year, in order to report the family’s good and bad deeds during the year to the heavenly emperor.

To celebrate the day, families often clean the gods’ altar and offer flowers, fruits, and various delicacies.

Others go to a lake or river to release live carp and throw ashes into the water.

However, such traditional practices can be harmful to the environment as many people also throw the plastic bags used to hold the fish or ashes into the water.

Scott Matt pours ashes into the river, a traditional Vietnamese practice on the Kitchen Gods’ Day.
Scott Matt pours ashes into the river, a traditional Vietnamese practice on the Kitchen Gods’ Day.

The volunteer group, known as Ca Chep (Carp), has spent the last five Kitchen Gods' Days picking up trash.

This year, the team was joined by Scott Matt, a 24-year-old American street artist.

Matt did not expect to join the group but saw it as a chance to help the local environment.

A member of the Ca Chep (Carp) volunteer group holds a sign saying “Release carp, not plastic bags” on Long Bien Bridge.
A member of the Ca Chep (Carp) volunteer group holds a sign saying “Release carp, not plastic bags” on Long Bien Bridge.

“I thought it was a good opportunity to prevent a lot of trash from entering the water before it became dangerous pollution,” Matt said.

Matt and the Vietnamese group collected plastic bags under the Long Bien Bridge, which crosses over the Red River.

They also assisted local residents with performing the traditional rituals in eco-friendly ways.

The volunteers provide a bucket to help locals release their carps into the river.
The volunteers provide a bucket to help locals release their carp into the river.
Young volunteers collect litter under the bridge.
Young volunteers collect litter under the bridge.
Hanoi residents throw ashes and used incense sticks into the water.
Hanoi residents throw ashes and used incense sticks into the water.
A man pours ashes into the river on Long Bien Bridge.
A man pours ashes into the river on Long Bien Bridge.
A volunteers collect plastic bags from a resident.
A volunteers collect plastic bags from a resident.

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