7 days before Tet*

* Vietnamese Lunar New Year*

23rd of lunar December, it was the day of the Kitchen God. 7 days before Tet, all celebratory traditions started from here.

In the Vietnamese culture, people believe that the kitchen is one of the most important parts of the house,  where the fire should always be kept on burning (well, theoretically) to maintain the spiritual chemistry of the family. And the kitchen god is believed to be there to guard on you for the whole year. And on the 23rd of lunar December, he will depart the kitchen to return to heaven and report to the Jade Emperor how you and your family have been doing throughout the whole past year.

Photo from the internet

Photo of the kitchen god riding the carp collected from the internet

On this day you will see people rush out to do shopping to prepare for the kitchen god’s departure. We clean our family altar, replace old offerings with new ones (fruits, confectionery and some golden decorations), we prepare paper clothes for the kitchen god and buy carps from the market and present them on the altar , the kitchen god is supposed to ride the carp to heaven, in his shiny new costumes, so after presenting those offerings on the family altar and pray, you burn the paper clothes, and you go to any nearby lake to release the carps in the water.

I remember joining my mom to the market in the early morning and witnessing all the bustle of shopping, colors of yellow carps, green grapefruits, red chilies, orange kumquat, colorful paper clothes in the market, my hands grabbing my mom’s, eyes wide open, feet happily skipping on the street to catch up with her pace, also to not to get lost in the sea of people bustling in the tiny area of the market.  Everybody was in a hurry. Tet was in 7 days! Those were the days when I was a kid! The happiest version of me, been waiting all year to start my Tet holidays when I have 2 weeks off, meaning those painful final exams were over, I would be eating Tet foods, wearing new clothes my mom bought, and having lots of lucky money…

Fast forward to 20 years later…

7 days before Tet, I was rushing to work in the early morning, running between meetings, stressed out of bad traffic worrying I might be late for the next appointment, there was no time to stop. Between meetings my mind was wondering what my mom would be doing at home, reminiscing on my overjoy and excitement back in the days when joining her to the market, hanging around her when she was preparing all those spiritual offerings, going with her to the lake releasing those beautiful carps, and helping with burning those clothes for our kitchen god. Basically jumping out of joy being able to participate in those traditions to kick start the lunar new year!

Oh boy this year I got nostalgic! 7 days before Tet I have to be a grown up and go to work! Also since I live in my own place now I don’t really do all those rituals (you know the thing they always said, younger generations are losing it, I fear I might be one of those guys), and the most painful thing I can tell you about it around this time of year is that cleaning all by yourself is not the most entertaining thing to do. In our tradition, there are many customs practiced during Tet, we also redecorate our house, show off all new stuffs, use our shiny China, dress in new clothes, because if you start your new year with new things, you will likely to enter a year of good luck and blessings; and one thing we believe that sweeping is a taboo since you can sweep all the luck away, so all cleaning has to be done before the new year. In this regards I would like to state that procrastinating is totally my thing!

Anyways sadly I have to say now is the time to end my story of the kitchen god. By the time you read this, it has already been a few days back, and I don’t have much time for procrastination. Tet is coming in a day!

So here I’ll leave you with the only photo I could be able to snap on the actual 23rd  of lunar December on my cab ride to the next meeting. You can also see the reflection of my boss on the glass window. This’s of a women burning paper clothes on kitchen god’s day.

photo(9)And now off to some serious business, not much time left until I can’t sweep anything (I mean, luck) away.

See you in my next post!



One thought on “7 days before Tet*

  1. Your story of preparing for the Kitchen God took me back to my own child hood, and memories of Christmas tree shopping with my family. We would go the the tree markets and my brother and I would run through the forest of cut pine trees looking for the one with the most space for presents underneath. Of course my parents never picked that one but they always got a good one and we would all have some hot apple cider, tie the tree to the top of the car, and head home to put it up and decorate it.

    Like you as I grow older this tradition has kind of slipped away and I have never even had a Christmas tree in my house since I lived alone and this year I did not even make it home for Christmas.

    We need to embrace the traditions of our youth so we can be young a gain.

    Loved the post, thank you.


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