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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Vietnam series at VietnamesePod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Vietnamese holidays and observances. I’m Michael, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson # 16 - Kitchen Guardians Day.
Kitchen Guardians' Day, or ngày Ông Táo, is held each year on December 23rd according to the lunar calendar. Typically, during this festival families will prepare a feast, or cỗ, to worship the three kitchen guardians to assure their kitchens will be peaceful for the rest of the year. In this lesson, we will learn about the story of the Kitchen Guardians and the customs of the Vietnamese people on this day!
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
What is the symbol of solidarity and warmth in the kitchens of the ancient Vietnamese people?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Vietnamese people have a tradition of worshiping the Kitchen Guardians on lunar December 23rd. According to ancient stories, on this day, the three Kitchen Guardians, who are considered as Gods, ride carp to heaven, called trời in Vietnamese, to report to the King of Heaven on each family’s activities during the course of the past year. It is also believed that after reporting, the Kitchen Guardians return to Earth to continue to watch over the families’ kitchens. In Vietnamese kitchen is called bếp.
According to certain ancient notions, the place where the Kitchen Guardians live all year round is specifically the stove, or bếp lửa. As the kitchen is the place where many families gather to talk about their activities during the day, it is understood that the Kitchen Guardians know all the good and bad things that occur in the lives of each family. Items used to worship these guardians include carp, and three sets of miniature paper costumes for Kitchen Guardians, two male, one female. The big difference between the male and the female costumes, is in the hats. Male Kitchen Guardians’ hats have dragonfly wings whereas the female Kitchen Guardians’ hats do not.
Families usually begin worship before noon, burn one round of incense, then take the worship items down from the altar and burn the joss paper money, or the money for gods or those who passed away. Three sets of kitchen guardian paper costumes with the joss paper money are burned, because it is believed that this is the way to send offerings to the dead and to the Gods.
Some families give offerings of paper carp, but there are also some families who offer living carp. After the carp has been burnt in offering, they drop the carp into lakes and rivers nearby so that the Kitchen Guardians may freely fly to Heaven to meet the King of Heaven.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question!
What is the symbol of solidarity and warmth in the kitchens of the ancient Vietnamese people?
It is a tripod, representing durability. According to ancient stories, the tale of the Kitchen Guardians tells the story of a sincere relationship between two men and a woman, which make the three legs of a tri-pod.
So listeners, how was this lesson? Did you learn something interesting?
Does your country have concepts similar to that of the Kitchen Guardians in Vietnam?
Please leave a comment telling us at VietnamesePod101.com, and we’ll see you next time!