(Jade Emperor is the ruler of all the deities in heaven and is highly regarded as the figure of authority in the Taoism belief).
The Hokkien clan in the Chinese community places priority on this celebration as they are thankful to the Jade Emperor for his act of kindness in their times of distress.
The story goes that there was an ongoing war between the Hokkien and Teochew clan in the past, and the Hokkiens were on the losing end and they had to run and seek refuge from the pursuing Teochews. With no place to hide, the Hokkiens ended up hiding in a sugarcane plantation.
As we very well know (or have probably seen), a sugarcane plantation is barely any good hiding place with the wide gap between each of the sugarcane plants. However, the miracle is that the Hokkiens managed to hide there for the entire Chinese New Year and finally came out of their hiding place on the 9th day of the Lunar New Year, which coincided with the birthday of the Jade Emperor.
Grateful for their safety, the Hokkiens vowed to thank the Jade Emperor for protecting them from the Teochews and have since observed the 9th day of the Lunar New Year as a day of celebration in remembrance of their gratitude to the deity.
Therefore, it is not a surprise to see a rather extravagant mood lingering in the air towards the 8th day of Lunar New year as the Hokkiens prepare for the celebration.
To the Hokkiens, the 9th day also marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year as they have finally come out of the hiding.
(This is a version of the story told to me by my grandmother and parents)
To commemorate the Jade Emperor's birthday celebration, the Hokkiens go to great lengths to make the preparations for the midnight celebration and that included worship items such as joss sticks, paper gold offerings, dragon joss sticks, and food items such as glutinous/sticky rice cakes, fluffy rice cakes, fruits, poultry, pork, tea, and not forgetting the most important of all; sugarcane.
The feature of this post is one of the type of kueh, or rice cakes commonly seen in the local stalls and often used for the prayers and worship.
The Red Tortoise is a direct translation from its Chinese name; 'Ang Koo Kueh' or also steamed sticky glutinous rice cake.
Looking at the picture, I am sure it is not hard to comprehend how this cake derived its name from.
The kueh is shaped like a tortoise shell; and is pretty much made of sticky glutinous rice and colored with red.
(Red is always an auspicious color for the Chinese, and even more so during important celebrations such as birthdays and weddings. Yes, this kueh is also found in Chinese weddings)
The kueh contains a mung bean paste inside, and then stuck on a piece of banana leaf.
Of course, despite being popularly/originally known as the Red Tortoise kueh due to its shape, this kueh can also be found in many different shapes and colors.
There is also another popular version of the kueh which is in green; and is known as, you guess right, the Green Tortoise kueh. However, this is not as common as the red one, but still equally as favored by most kueh lovers.
Almost everyone around me is a fan of this kueh and will just squeal in delight at the sight of these.
Anyway, just to be clear, no tortoise was colored or harmed in the production of this kueh everywhere :)