The inside story on the Kitchen Gods

If you’re wondering why your Vietnamese friends are frantically cleaning their homes at the moment, here’s why:

Once upon a time, a man married a beautiful woman and they were very content, until war broke out and the husband left to join the fighting. The wife waited for him to return home, but he did not come back. Many men asked for her hand in marriage, but she refused, believing her husband was still alive. After 10 years of waiting, she decided to search for him. She walked the streets and countryside for over 2 years but her efforts were fruitless. One day, she collapsed from exhaustion on the side of the road and would probably have died had not a kind man passing by noticed her. The man helped the woman to recover, and soon fell madly in love with her. She accepted his marriage offer, and moved into his small farm house.

One day, while her new husband was working in the fields, a beggar came to the house and asked the woman for food. The woman instantly recognized the beggar as her first husband, but sadly he didn’t recognize his wife, for he had sustained amnesia in the war. The woman fed her first husband and allowed him to sleep outside, nearby the house. Her new husband unexpectedly arrived home from the fields early, and the wife, fearing that he may become jealous, hid her first husband under a pile of straw, where he peacefully continued to sleep. She then went inside the house to prepare a meal for her new husband, who stayed outside, and wanting to remain useful while he awaited his meal, decided to light the pile of straw to make ash to fertilize his fields. The woman smelt the smoke from the burning pile of straw, ran outside, saw that her first husband was burning alive and threw herself on the fire. The new husband, seeing that his wife was burning to death, also threw himself onto the fire, and all 3 people died.

The Chief God was watching this scene unfold from heaven, and felt pity for all 3 people and decided to make them Kitchen Gods. To this day, the 3 Kitchen Gods live in our homes and once a year, on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, they write a report to the Chief God about how each of us lives our life. For this reason, Vietnamese people must ensure their homes are spotlessly clean before this special day. When the report has been written, the Kitchen Gods fly up to heaven on 3 fish (which the householders must leave for them) and once the Kitchen Gods fly over the cloud gates of heaven, they become dragons. If you buy a set of paper goods to burn for Kitchen Gods’ Day, you’ll notice that inside the pack there are 3 sets of clothing – one set for a woman, and 2 sets for men, plus 3 golden paper fish. Now you’ll understand why.


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