Tet Ong Tao – Vietnam Kitchen God Day
Every year on the lunar twenty-third December, Vietnamese people hold the ceremony to say goodbye to Ong Tao or Kitchen King who go to the heaven and report to the Jade Emperor all about the family that he takes care of over the past year. This ceremony is called Tet Ong Tao or Kitchen God Day – a beautiful Vietnamese cultural feature. Celebrating Tet Ong Tao is a must custom around Tet which express the belief of Vietnamese people in Gods supporting daily life. You may wonder who Ong Tao is, where in each house he is worshiped, how Vietnam Kitchen God Day happens.
There are many stories talking about origin of Ong Tao. Following is the most interesting and popular story about On Tao in Vietnam. Once upon a time, there was a very poor couple, the husband was Trong Cao, the wife was Thi Nhi. They had lived together for a long time but hadn’t born any child. Therefore, they were usually sad and argued each other. One day Trong Cao was so angry that he struck his wife. Being angry, Thi Nhi left home, then met a man named Pham Lang. He used sweet words to seduce her and he agreed to be his wife. When the anger was over, Trong Cao went to look for Thi Nhi everywhere, but could not found any news about her. He was very upset, left the house, stopped his job. He decided to become a beggar and went around many regions to look for his wife.
An old painting about 3 Kitchen Gods
One day, Trong Cao came to a rich family to beg. The female householder gave him some rice. Trong Cao regconized that was his wife – Thi Nhi and so do Thi Nhi. They could not forget former love. Thi Nhi told that she regretted having got Pham Lang to be a husband. When they were talking to each other, accidentally the new husband – Pham Lang came back from the paddy rice field. Thi Nhi told Trong Cao to hide inside a stack of straw. Pham Lang burned straws in order to get straw ash to manure a field so that Trong Cao died of fire. The former wife Thi Nhi saw that, rushed into the fire to be dead with him. Pham Lang saw his wife was dead, he also rushed into the fire to be dead with her.
The Deity found that these three people are faithful in marriage, he conferred the title Tao Quan on them and appointed each person a job:
-Pham Lang takes care of kitchen work;
-Trong Cao takes care of housework;
-Thi Nhi takes care of shopping.
In fact, Ong Tao is used to call three Kitchen Gods, two male and one female. In the countryside, the stove is three soil clods that also called three Ong Tao. Generally, three gods are responsible for taking care of housework. Besides, they examine whole things of family and every year ride carps flying back to the heaven to report good and bad things to the Jade Emperor – King of all Gods in the heaven.
The altar of Ong Tao is set above the stove in the house’s kitchen and it is arranged decorated kindly. On the lunar fifteenth and thirteenth of each month during the year, the the head of the family lays flowers, fruit, cakes and sweets on the Kitchen God alter to offer Ong Tao. Especially, every year, on the twenty-third of twelfth month, the house of the family organizes solemnly the farewell ceremony to say goodbye to Ong Tao.
Offering on Vietnam Kitchen God Day
In North Vietnam, the offering of the ceremony consists of three hats, three sets of clothes, three mandarin boots made from paper and fake money. Besides, there are a vase of flowers, a five-fruit tray, rice, chicken, square rice glutinous cake, candies, especially three carps. People believe that carps are the only animals that could bring Ong Tao back to the heaven on Vietnam Kitchen God Day. After preparing the offering, the head of the family burns incenses to pray. He thanks Ong Tao for supporting his family having got good things last year and next year. He also wishes to have warm, full and happy life in the next year.After the ceremony finishes, the carps are freed in a river nearby. The offering in South Vietnam is simple, some flowers, fruit, cakes and jam are enough.
A foreigner and his daughter release carps on Kitchen God Day
On New Year’s Eve, Ong Tao will be welcomed to the earth. Three Kitchen Gods continue their work in the house.
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