Of Fish & Kitchen Gods: A Tết Ritual Needs To Be Carried Out in a Humane & Non-Polluting Manner

Dead carp floating in the To Lich River in Hanoi on Thursday. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh (February 2018)

On a recent commute to my office, I noticed numerous signs on the bridge over the Red River. They asked people not to throw fish into water river below. As this 2018 article notes, “the ritual is an important tradition that takes place one week before the Lunar New Year. The idea is the fish will carry the Kitchen Gods to heaven so they can report to the Jade Emperor about what we’ve been doing this year.” If you read the 2018 article, you’ll see that there are people who are trying to ensure that tradition is carried out in a humane and “cultured” way.

Sadly, many people will throw fish into the water from considerable heights either directly or in a plastic bag. Most of the fish either die on impact or, if the ones in plastic bags survive, they suffocate. Either way, the end result is death – quick or slow. (Viet Nam is one of worst plastic polluters in the world.) Others will release them in highly polluted water, which produces the same end result.

This photo, taken today, is of another bridge that spans the Red River. Check out the plastic bags. You can imagine what happened to the fish once they hit the water below.

In the aforementioned 2018 article, a monk by the name of Thich Tinh Giac stated the obvious when he said that releasing carp is an act to honor life, so pollution should not be tolerated. “Releasing fish with other items destroys the meaning of the ritual,” a reference to plastic bags and incense burners. Killing fish is a most dishonorable and disgraceful way to end the current Lunar Year and prepare for the Lunar New Year.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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