Kitchen God Day
The Kitchen God, Zao Jun, is one of the most important gods in Chinese history. He is the domestic god that is responsible for returning to Heaven once a year to report what each household in China has done over the past year. Then the mighty Jade Emperor either blesses or curses the households according to their deeds. Zao Jun makes his journey on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, just before the Chinese New Year. The traditional name for the holiday is "Xiao Nian." How Zao Jun Become a God
How Zao Jun become the Kitchen God is somewhat uncertain, although one account goes like this:
Jun's name was Zhang Dan when he was a mortal man living on the earth. He married a virtuous woman, but came to fall in love with a younger girl. He left his wife to be with his new love. Zhang Dan received a curse for this adulteress act. The young girl left him, he became blind, and he had to become a beggar in order to survive from day to day.
One day while wandering the streets and begging, Zhang Dan happened upon a house where a lady took pity on him and took him into her home. What he did not know was that this was his wife's home. He did recognize her because he was blind. She cared for him lovingly. As he was telling this woman of his misfortune, he began to cry. Miraculously his sight was restored. When he saw his wife staring at him, he felt ashamed and sorrowful. He threw himself into the kitchen hearth and burned himself until he was consumed by the fire. The only remaining part of him was a leg. The wife then fashioned a shrine to Zhang Dan above the kitchen hearth.
As Zhang Dan's ashes reached the heavens, Jade Emperor commended him for telling the truth about his betrayal to his wife, and made him the Kitchen God, as this where he died. His job is to watch over the families and record everything they have done over a year's time, and report it back to Jade Emperor once a year.
Kitchen God Day celebrated
The Chinese still celebrate Kitchen God Day. It is a tradition to offer Zao Jun food such as nuts and fruit. A candle is lit in his honor as well. The Chinese will also offer him wine and sweet candies of all sorts. This is done in hopes that Zao Jun will eat enough candy from your house that it will glue his teeth together. By doing this, he will say good things about your family when he visits Jade Emperor in Heaven. The emperor in turn will send the family good luck and fortune.
Some families will burn a picture of Zao Jun in their fireplace, along with paper horses to help him return to Heaven safely with his reports. It is believed by burning his photo, it will speed up the process of him getting Heaven. A new photo replaces the one burned and stays in place for the entire year.