According to tradition, the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month is when Kitchen Gods bid farewell and ride on carps to Heaven to report to the Jade Emperor what one’s family has done during the year.
To celebrate the event and honour the Kitchen Gods, families prepare a tray of fruits, votive papers, carps (either real or unreal) as offerings for the Gods’ journey.
They burn votive papers and paper carps and release real carps into lakes or rivers in the hope that the Kitchen Gods will make a successful trip to Heaven.
Strolling around the main streets in Hanoi, visitors can see vendors carry loads of colourful votive papers such as Kitchen Gods clothes and footwear.
“Votive paper” streets like Hang Ma and Luong Van Can even offer paper-made products such as luxury and eye-catching cars, Iphones 5, motorbikes and Ipads.
Votive paper and products are diverse this year in terms of colours and materials, with prices ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese Dong.
A shop owner on Hang Ma street said economic difficulties have forced families to tighten their belt and as a consequence traders are not hiking prices in a bid to attract consumers.
A Kitchen Gods package, comprising three suits and hats, costs from VND40,000-60,000 to VND250,000-350,000, depending on sizes. The small-size packages are currently selling the best.
“Very few people ask for paper cars, villas or TV sets,” said Ngan, a shop owner on Hang Ma.
An online service selling carps is booming these days, especially for those who are busy at work. Social forums and networks including facebook are full of information about such service.
An individual facebooker sells three red carps for approximately VND30,000 to VND50,000 depending on the size of the fish. The carps are packaged in a nylon bag and delivered to buyers’ door.
“The online carp market is selling well this year. Yesterday I purchased 1,500 red carps, two thirds of them have been ordered by online customers,” said Tuan, a facebooker.
Tuan said white-collar workers do not want to waste their time shopping these days, and they fear traders at traditional markets hike prices, so the door-to-door service is a perfect solution.
Trang, another white-collar worker in Hanoi, said she surfs the net and receives around 200 orders at work every day. Her husband is tasked with delivering the carp to customers.
Every day Trang has received approximately 200 orders and the couple pocket several hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese Dong in profit.