Tet preparations are in full swing. Red and yellow can be seen on every street corner with the streets full of flowers and quaint and charming lanterns. The excitement of the Lunar New Year is upon us and the city feels different.

 

Tet is a time spent with family and friends and a time of traditions and customs. Cities and villages close down and people travel to their home towns to celebrate.

 

It’s also a time of worshipping and staging a farewell ceremony for the Kitchen Gods. The Kitchen Gods are responsible for taking care of all household affairs and report back to the Jade Emperor.

 

Traditionally, a small ceremony will take place, this ceremony includes certain offerings such as sticky rice, dilled chicken, flowers and three sticks of incense to see the three Kitchen Gods off back to heaven.   

 

And, this is how the story of the Kitchen Gods (Tao Quan) all began…

 

A married couple named Thi Nhi and Trong Cao were arguing, arguing over nothing in particular. The husband Trong Cao was angry, he beat and threw his wife out of the house. Although, still in love with her husband Thi Nhi had no other choice but to leave.

 

She met Pham Lang, a kind and loving man. They got married and Pham Lang loved Thi Nhi. They led a happy and peaceful life but Thi Nhi could not forget her first husband, Trong Cao.

 

Far away, Trong Cao also missed Thi Nhi and he regretted sending his wife away. He had waited and waited in the hope that Thi Nhi would one day return. Eventually he decided he would look for Thi Nhi.  

 

He travelled many miles but could not find his wife. He ran out of food and money and was forced to beg for his meals. One day, desperate for a meal, he knocked on the door of a house to ask for food. Thi Nhi answered the door and Trong Cao was deeply moved to see his wife, Thi Nhi. He was invited in and given a good meal.

 

However, soon after there was another knock at the door, this was Pham Lang returning home. Thi Nhi panicked at the thought of being discovered with her former husband so Thi Nhi hid Trong Cao under a stack of straw.

 

Needing ash to fertilise his field, Pham Lang set fire to the straw. As the flames spread Trong Cao accepted his fate to burn to death to protect Thi Nhi’s virtue. Thi Nhi was distraught because her love for Trong Cao had caused his death, not able to save Trong Cao from the fire nor tell her husband, she felt no other choice but to throw herself into the flames.

 

Pham Long was filled with sorrow and couldn’t understand why his wife had killed herself so he to also jumped into the burning fire and died with his loving wife.

 

The Jade Emperor in the heavens was so moved and saddened by the devotion and deep love that he decided to help them live together forever. Using his magic, he made them Kitchen Gods and since this time, the Kitchen Gods have been responsible for taking care of all household affairs.

 

This story of the Kitchen Gods is courtesy of Vietnamese Language Studies, (VLS). If you’re up for a challenge, test your knowledge of Vietnamese Tet then go to http://ow.ly/hlXr2 and http://ow.ly/hlXtQ. Up for grabs are free Vietnamese lessons – Good luck!

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