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January Religious Observances in China

In January, the Chinese hold a feast to commemorate the Kitchen God (also known as Zao Jun), who is seen as a ‘stove spirit’ or one associated with the prosperity of home and family. This article will also touch upon details of the Chinese New Year, which is one of the most important celebrations in China.

Kitchen God Feast

The celebration called the Kitchen God Feast and the traditions that follow have been adopted by other Asian cultures, such as the Vietnamese. It is thought on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month (just before the Chinese New Year) , the Kitchen God returns to Heaven to give an account of the activities of every household over the past year to the Jade Emperor (also known as Yu Huang).
The Jade Emperor is the ruler of the heavens, and is the deciding factor as to whether a family is rewarded or punished. The yearly report of the Kitchen God is taken into consideration.

In traditional circles, every Chinese household would display a paper effigy or a plaque of the Kitchen God and his wife (who writes down everything about a household). The typical placement of such an object was above the fireplace in the kitchen. To this day, many still follow this custom. Because of this, the Kitchen God is one of the most worshipped of gods associated with the protection of the household and family.

To encourage a good report from the Kitchen God for when he makes his journey to the heavens, honey is often smeared on the paper effigy to “sweeten” the words or keep his lips sealed. Following the holiday, the effigy is burned and replaced with a new one on New Year’s Day. Firecrackers are also lit to “speed” his way to the heavens.

Another observance that involves the Kitchen God is the third day of the eighth lunar month, where his birthday is celebrated. During this time, families make offerings of food and incense.

Chinese New Year

As one of the most important of traditional Chinese holidays, celebrations of the Chinese New Year are seen throughout Asia and beyond. Other names for the holiday are Chinese Lunar New Year and the ‘Spring Festival.’

For starters, the holiday marks the end of the winter season, but there are many cultural, mythological and religious influences associated with the celebration of the event. The festival starts on the first day of the first month. If following the traditional Chinese calendar, the holiday ends on the 15th day of the month with the Lantern Festival. On this day, families gather to celebrate with their yearly reunion dinner , often referred to as “Eve of the Passing Year.”

The customs and traditions involving the Chinese New Year vary depending on the region. A lot of money is typically spent to celebrate the holiday, including on food, decorations, presents, and clothing. A common tradition is to thoroughly clean the house in an effort to get rid of any bad luck and make room for future good luck. The color red plays a significant role in the celebration of the holiday. This is why you will see windows and doors decorated with red paper-cuts. The color symbolized happiness, wealth and longevity.