Traditionally Chinese families made offerings to send him off so that he will provide a good report. Some families worship the Kitchen God with offerings of homemade candies, rice cakes, dates, walnuts and fried beans. They may also burn fodder as a symbolic way to feed the Kitchen God's horse. Some families made additional offerings of sweets or of sweets or smeared honey on his lips so he would say sweet things to the Jade Emperor about the family. In some families, he was fed sticky things (like nian gao rice cakes) so that he can not say much of anything! (Think about how much you can say with a spoonful of peanut butter in your mouth.)
Herbal Shop's sticky cake recipeEach year, each family needed to get a new (paper picture of the) kitchen god - the old one was burned and his messages went up with the smoke. The Kitchen God is guardian of the hearth, inventor of fire and censor of morals, and he is made of paper or other materials that burn easily. Most practicing families do not replace it until t New Year's Day, so for one week, there is no kitchen god, his place is empty.
This year someone said that if we were only going to buy (or make) 3 things for Chinese New Year, they should all be paper:
- a new kitchen god,
- door guardians, and
- chun lian couplets.