Sticky candy for the Chinese Kitchen God 祭灶

Sticky candy for the Chinese Kitchen God 祭灶

The only thing about not being in China for this year’s Spring Festival is that I don’t have to endure Chunyun. But I miss out on all the preparations and atmosphere leading up to Chinese New Year.

I would have totally forgotten if Jin wouldn’t have kindly reminded me by sending pictures of candy and nice food that today is the celebration of the Kitchen God Festival, in China known as Jizao Day 祭灶. Ji 祭 is a Chinese term for “sacrifice”, and zao 灶 for “Kitchen God” (commonly known as Zaowangye 灶王爷or Zaoshen 灶神), so it’s the day to worship the Kitchen God and his family. The celebration falls on the 23rd day of the 12th month of the Chinese lunar calendar and is also referred to as xiaonian Festival 小年, which literally means the “small new year”: A small celebration one week before the “big year” 大年 arrives on the 31st day of the 12th month.

Traditionally it is said that the Kitchen God is sent from Heaven to each family to take charge of family affairs. He has stayed with the family since the Spring Festival’s Eve of the last year and has observed the families behavior during the year. On Jizao Day he returns to Heaven to give the Jade Emperor a report about the good or evil deeds of the family. The Jade Emperor then decided of the good or bad fortune of the family for the next year. To prevent the Kitchen God from speaking bad words of the family in Heaven a custom is to offer him lots of sticky sweets which are supposed to stick together his mouth.

Here is a little video about the hundred-year old tradition of making melon-shaped sweet candy. This tradition has been handed down over generations.

In big cities this tradition seems to be no longer very popular, but in the countryside you can still find it. People in Niuji still celebrate Jizao. My parents-in-law see this as a very important day which marks the beginning of all New Year preparations. They would clean the house (especially the kitchen), do lots of Spring Festival shopping, and prepare a nice dinner. My mother-in-law would make her well-known baozi (a steamed stuffed bun) and jiaozi (dumplings). Of course firekrackers cannot be forgotten. There have to be Chinese firecrackers! Without, it wouldn’t be a Chinese festival, right? Usually in Niuji they light a bunch of them in the morning, before lunch time, before dinner, and later in the evening to say goodbye to the Kitchen God when he leave to report to the Jade Emperor.

I found a really cute video on YouKu explaining the Jizao Festival in Chinese (with English subtitles). A must watch for everyone who studies Chinese.

Next year I will be eating the sticky candy again, and enjoying my mother-in-laws fine cooking skills.

Did you ever celebrate Jizao?

The following two tabs change content below.
Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

6 thoughts on “Sticky candy for the Chinese Kitchen God 祭灶

    • Actually, I remember my father-in-law bringing me some of those sticky candy sticks last year. I didn’t like them at all, because they just stick to your teeth, and I also didn’t know the tradition behind it haha
      Actually my husband doesn’t know the reasons and stories behind many traditions and coustoms himself. That day he just told me it’s Jizao, and it has something to do with the New Year haha I had to make him ask his mother to really find out all the stories behind this traditions. And that was just one example… it happens all the time… Somehoe younger people know there is a special day when you have to do some special things, but most of them don’t know why anymore -.-

      • It is very sad that many young people don’t know or even don’t care the reasons for such events anymore. Whenever there is some festival, special food or whatsoever I try to ask my wife about some further information but she has no idea about it, neither does her mom most of the time so we end up questioning either her grandmother or consult the internet…

  1. Pingback: Niuji Village welcomes the Year of the Horse 新年快乐 | The Mandarin Duck

  2. Pingback: Spring Festival’s Tofu Day: A Whole Day dedicated to the Delicious Bean Curd | Lost Panda

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge
%d bloggers like this: