Saturday, February 09, 2008

3rd and 4th days of the CNY

The third day of the Chinese New Year is a day of rest otherwise known as the "loyal dog day".

The third and fourth day of the Chinese New Year are usually considered inappropriate days to visit relatives. Known as "Chi Kou", the Chinese believe that it is a day when arguments happen easily. It is suggested that the cause could be the fried food and visiting during the first two days of the New Year celebration. Smart thinking to get rid of the family business!

Families with an immediate kin who passed away in the past 3 years will not go visiting the homes of others, as a sign of respect to the dead. The third day of the New Year is dedicated to visiting the grave of the deceased relative instead. This may have led some people conclude that it is inauspicious to do any house visiting at all on this day.

Neither visits are made nor visitors received as it is also believed that evil spirits roam the earth this day and it would invite bad luck to be outdoors. Thus conservative Chinese businesses do not open until after the fifth day.

Every kitchen has a Kitchen God, usually posted near the stove, as a red paper banner with Kitchen God symbols written on it. In front of Kitchen God there is usually an incense burner and a pair of candle stick holders. People burn the incense and candles everyday to pray for protection, or at least burn the incense and candles on the 1st and 15th of each month.

Kitchen God protects the kitchen from fire, disaster, and all kinds of unwanted trouble. Once a year, on the 24th day of the 12th lunar month, families serve Kitchen God a feast of cooked chicken (which must include head and feet), roast pork, mixed vegetables, rice and more, to thank Kitchen God for the kind protection of the year. Generally a table is set in front of Kitchen God, and the food is left on the table for a few hours, then later on removed

One week before New Year's, Kitchen God is dispatched to make his report to the Heavens. He is ceremoniously burned. His spirit travels upwards within the smoke to the Jade Emperor in Heaven, where it is hoped that he will speak sweet words about the family in his charge.

His lips are smeared with honey or other sweet substance. The layer of sweet sticky maltose candy or even Nian Gao is applied over the lips of his idol. This cunning device aims to “stick” the Kitchen God’s mouth shut to prevent him from bad mouthing the family before the King of Heaven. The sweet candy also served the dual purpose of “sweetening” his tongue should the first method fail.

On the fourth day, the “Kitchen God” is welcomed back into the household. This important divine being has returned from his yearly sojourn to Heaven, where he has reported the misdeeds of the family. He is received back with suitable aplomb and offerings.