Au Revoir to the Kitchen God - The tradition that almost got away.
On the 24th day of the last lunar calendar, the Kitchen God（灶神）makes his report of every household to the Jade Emperor on each merits and misdeeds that have been accumulated in the past year. This is the audit of your past twelve months of actions and demaenour, whether they have brought joy or misery to those you come into contact with. This report card of yours will come when the Kitchen God does his rounds and return to your respective homes on the eve of the Lunar New Year (21st January 2023).
According to legend, the Jade Emperor will then decide any rewards or punishments to each home and its occupants for the rest of the coming new year.
Leading up the the Lunar New Year, many of us will be busy spring cleaning to prepare for one of the most important day in the Chinese Calendar, the Lunar New Year which falls on 22nd January 2023.
In Asian tradition, the kitchen also symbolizes the general health and harmony your home. The premise is, good health and good food bind us as one happy family.
So, mark your calendar. To send off the Kitchen God, your home and especially the cooking area, must be clean and tidy on the day before. This day is the Saturday on 14th January 2023.
Besides cleaning up the kitchen and most parts of the home, prepare a fruit platter of fruits (local to your place of stay for readers overseas) , a bouquet of fresh flowers and the quintessential is the New Year Cake called 'Nian Gao' （年糕）. This delicacy is prepared from glutinous rice flour and brown sugar. For our overseas readers, a similar repalcement would be some sweet savoury or cakes. It is then consumed by frying the New Year Cake into slices with a batter of eggs and flour. I beleive recipes can be found easily online.
Offered to the Kitchen God as a sendoff, it is belived that it will hopefully sweeten the mood of the Kitchen God when he does his reporting. You may take it as a small token of a bribe.
For some, it can be an elaborate affair with prayers and offerings of incense but for those who take this as a traditional and cultural practice, this would suffice.
I hope that this annual observance will not be forgotten through the generations but preserved as a link to our origins, as ethnic Chinese, all around the world.
The Kitchen God is a personification of a presence an energy or a force and I emphasize that this is not religious and can apply to everyone among us, as a mark of new hopes and great future for ourselves and for those we love.