Lower East Side Community

     Chinese New Year Gods

     Kitchen God
     The Kitchen God is the most important of
     the domestic deities. he receives offerings
     twice a month and a special feast of honey
     at the end of the year, on the twenty-third
     or twenty-fourth day of the twelfth moon.
     He is represented by a portrait
or a slip of red paper with
the necessary characters.

As the old year draws to a close, the Kitchen God appears before the heavenly Jade Emperor to present his annual report on the behavior of members of a household.  To get into his good books, worshippers clean his shrine in the kitchen thoroughly.  They sweeten his mouth with honey to ensure that his words will be sweet and flattering.  If they fear a bad report, they try to muzzle his mouth by wiping it with honey or sticky confection, or get him drunk by dipping his portrait in wine, or both.

Some even burn a generous amount of spirit money to help him with travelling expenses.  Sometimes a paper horse is thrown in for good measure - for the celestial agent to ride on in comfort.

God of Wealth

The God of Wealth is the most widely worshipped deity among the Chinese.  He ranks highest in the celestial ministry of finance.  He was reputed to have been a warrior, riding a black tiger and hurling pearls that exploded like bombs.   Notwithstanding his powers, he was killed by an opposing general and his status was raised to celestial president of the ministry of riches.

Associated with this much-adored deity is he money tree, with branches of coins strung together and fruits of gold ingots, all ready to be shaken down.   His birthday is on the fifth day of the New Year and elaborate feasts are prepared in his honor on the fourth day.

Farmers and villagers believe the God of Wealth controls the wealth of the world, distributing it to each family once a year.  It is the hope of getting a larger portion during the coming year that each family worships him so devoutly.

The Triple Rites

Offering to the Ancestors
A gesture of remembrance, respect and gratitude - is also a request for continued protection.  Favorite dishes are placed before the ancestral tablets, and joss sticks, candles and spirit money are burnt.

Offering to Earth and Heaven
This ensures favorable weather and a bumper harvest.  On the altar are placed bowls of rice with chopsticks, cups of tea and wine, dried fruit and fresh oranges.   Besides the joss sticks, incense burner and spirit money, also included is the latest edition of the Chinese Almanac.

Offerings to the God of Wealth
In expectation of a greater share of riches, worshippers invite the God of Wealth home on the fourth day of the New Year to partake of the sumptuous feast offered in his honor.   Generous offerings of food and spirit money are also made to the five evil gods of plague to placate them.

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