Despite a new ban passed by the Government, the votive paper market is hot again as the traditional customs surrounding the rituals that involve sending Kitchen Gods to heaven approaches.
The ban seeks to prevent people from burning votive paper in public.
Traditionally, Tet Ong Cong, Ong Tao (Kitchen Gods Day), which falls on the 23rd day of the 12th month in the Lunar Year (which is on Jan.26) is a tradition that bids farewell and thanks those Gods for blessing one's family during the last year. Families prepare a tray of fruits, votive papers and paper carps that are given as an offering for the Gods' journey. These days, people tend to burn fancier items, including paper cars.
Phuc Am and Duyen Truong villages in suburban Hanoi are known as the "votive paper villages" because they make and ship these products throughout the country.
Votive paper and products are more expensive and more diverse this year, according to Nguyen Van Hoai, who works at a votive product making workshop in Phuc Am Village .
"There is nothing that we can't make here, including paper Iphones, popular SH-branded motorbikes and convertible sports cars. As long as there is an order and people are willing to pay, we will make them," said Hoai.
Hoai's companies have already received dozens of orders for paper SH motorbikes and convertible cars as the holiday approaches. Each SH motorbike cost 4-5 million VND (200-250 USD), while each sports car cost more than 10 million VND (500 USD).
"As Tet approaches, my company gets so busy that all of my family members, including my parents and children, are involved in the family's business," said Dang Thanh Cong, who owns the second biggest votive product site in Duyen Truong Village .
Cong sells his products to wholesale dealers and to major temples in Hanoi , including Tran Quoc and Quan Su.
On July 12, a Government Decree was passed, which banned burning votive paper products at festivals or in other public places. A person can be fined between 500,000 - 1 million VND (25-50 USD) if found breaking the law.
However, the votive paper product market had shown no sign of slowing down, said Phung Van Bang, chair of Duyen Thai Commune People's Committee where the above two villages are located. "We've been organising campaigns asking people to not make as much votive goods." he said.
When there was a huge variety of votive goods at the market and an increasing demand, the number of producers have naturally grown as well, said Trinh Hoa Binh, an official from the Vietnam Academy of Social Science. "Burning paper goods as offerings has now exceeded its original spiritual value"./.