24th of the 12 Lunar Month is the day to send off the Kitchen God 灶君 (known to the Cantonese as Zhou Guan and Zhao Kun Kong to the Hokkien). Ah, sweet and sticky things, in the form of Nian Gao 年糕 (Dnee Kueh 甜糕 in Hokkien and Nin Kol in Cantonese), will be offered to him to enjoy the sweet and sticky things. Objective is to say things sweet and well, talk less. (^^)
And they have Nian Gao in the form of the gold ingots!
It is also the time, especially for the Cantonese, to change new altars, particular for the Tian Guan 天官 (known to the Hokkien mostly as Ti Kong 天公 rather than Ti Guan).
And so, we went shopping for a new one. Exposed to the natural elements of wind, dust, rain and sun, these small altars often hung on to the wall by a nail, get worn out by the end of the year. And so, on an auspicious date, we will change the altar.
There are many kinds of altars to choose from. From the simple to the elaborate. Some of these are made from recycled material. Ah, in the poor days, they made sense. (^^)
To receive the Jade Emperor or Tian Gong, special larger joss sticks are considered. Perhaps, better ones such as those made of Sandalwood 坛香 or Agarwood 沉香.
And where should we look for the altar? Wife knows exactly the place where she has been shopping for decades. And so, we went to this small shop next to the coffee shop off Spring Rd in Chinatown. From the old shop signage, this shop must have been there or thereabout for decades. Still very much in its own form - a great place to discover many things - old and new. I discovered ready packs that the modern people need not worry about what to buy to constitute a complete set of offering joss-papers for the Gods or even the ancestors. It seems that it is a general one, more for anyone of any dialect. In traditional terms, joss papers offered for the Gods and the Ancestors differ (to quite an extent) from dialect group to dialect group.
While the shopkeepers could communicate in Cantonese, they seemed somewhat more comfortable speaking in Mandarin. And then, I found that they seemed more natural in Hokkien! I heard that there was once a similar Teochew run shop in Chinatown.
As in the old days, we could leave out things to come back to collect later. But these days, well, the domestic help will go to pick them up. (^^)