Have you heard of the Kitchen God? Legends says that today (the 4th day of the lunar new year) is the day the Kitchen God returns back to his home, the Kitchen from heaven. So, what was he doing up in heaven? Well, let me tell you a little more about the Kitchen God. As one of Chinese culture's favorite gods, the Kitchen God is in charge of hanging out in the kitchen and overlooking his family's daily chores and activities throughout the year.
Every December 23rd of the Chinese lunar calendar, he returns to heaven and gives the Jade Emperor a report on both the good and bad deeds of the families. Based on this report, the Emperor then awards or punishes the households accordingly. Therefore, it is tradition to offer the Kitchen God some candy before he goes to heaven and give the Emperor his annual report. The stickier the candy, the better! If the candy sticks his teeth together, the Kitchen God will not be able to open his mouth and complain about the family!
Today, the fourth day of the Chinese lunar year is said to be the day that the Kitchen God returns to the families and announce the Emperor’s decisions on rewards and punishment. People take out delicious food and drinks, and light up firecrackers to welcome him back. If you happen to see a portrait of the Kitchen God hanging above a stove, check and see if he's watching over you with a big smile.
Then what is the story behind the Kitchen God? One version tells it like this. There were once two brothers: the younger one was a painter and the older one was a plasterer who went house to house building mud stoves. People in the neighborhood loved the elder brother not only because of his superb skills, but because of his willingness to help settle families disputes and troubles. However, when the plasterer died, his whole family went out of order – the children started fighting about how to divide the family fortune and nobody was willing to take on any responsibilities.
One day, the younger brother painted a portrait of the older brother and hung it above the stove. At night, he summoned his family to the kitchen, “look and see who came back to visit us,” he cried out. “Elder brother is so mad at you that he is reporting your misbehavior to the Jade Emperor who will punish you all!” Scared of what would fall upon them, the families started to behave and live a harmonious life together. Hearing the story, the neighbors started putting up the portrait of the plasterer to settle family disputes as well, which later became a well-known tradition of worshiping the Kitchen God.
And you were worried about Santa Claus...