Tet Tao Quan, special Tet of Vietnamese

Drop carp in Hoan Kiem lake

In Vietnam, the Lunar New Year is the biggest one, like Christmas in Western countries. In addition, there is another special Tet, which is Tet Tao Quan (The Kitchen God Send Off). Tet Tao Quan on 23rd December of the lunar, the meaning of Tet Tao Quan is all about preparing farewell Tao Quan to heaven.

The origin of this holiday is taken from local folklore about Thi Nhi, Trong Cao, and Pham Lang. In the story Thi Nhi and Trong Cao are unhappily married with no children. They quarreled and fought constantly and one day Trong Cao got very angry and sent Thi Nhi away. Thi Nhi left and later married another man named Pham Lang. Decisions made in anger are generally regretted and the same was true for Trong Cao, who really did love Thi Nhi. He then set out to find her and on the way he became a beggar. As he was searching he accidently found Thi Nhi at her new home. They talked about the past and their present lives for hours until it was about time for Pham Lang to come home. Since Thi Nhi thought it would be awkward for the two men to meet, she convinced Trong Cao to hide in a haystack. Pham Lang accidentally burned this haystack to make fertilizer for the fields with Trong Cao still hidden inside, thus cremating him. Thi Nhi feeling guilty decided to also jump into the fire and die. After watching his wife kill herself Pham Lang then took his own life and the 3 spirits ascended to heaven. Upon entering Heaven Ngoc Hoang (the Jade Emperor) deemed them Deities, the Tao Quan, who would watch over the people on Earth and report back each year on the people’s actions after riding a carp back to heaven. Thi Nhi became the Deity of the Market, Trong Cao, the Deity of the Land, and Pham Lang, the Deity of the Kitchen.

Tet Tao Quan, special Tet of Vietnamese
Drop carp in Hoan Kiem lake

In present day to honor these Deities, the women of the family will prepare a feast, which will be considered the last of the year, and clean the altars and homes. The altar will be redecorated with fresh fruits, 3 votive candles (one yellow for Ms Thi Nhi and two black for Mr. Trong Cao and Mr. Pham Lang) and a bowl with 1 or 3 live golden carp. After the Feast and prayers the family will walk go to the nearest River or lake to release the carp so that the Tao Quan with have a way back to the heavens. A popular place they release the fish is very close to Madam Yen Restaurant, in Hoan Kiem Lake.

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