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betel nuts chewing in Vietnam

Explore the culture of betel nuts chewing in Vietnam

As ancients said that a quid of betel starts a conversation, betel nuts chewing in Vietnam has always been a cultural beauty. However, this custom is not only available in Vietnam but also in other countries in Asia. So how it started in Vietnam and what’s different from neighboring nations?

betel nuts chewing in Vietnam elders

Betel nuts chewing in Vietnam is a striking cultural beauty – Source: @sensaos

According to legend, betel nuts chewing in Vietnam was rooted in the reign of Hung Kings. Until now, it has become an indispensable part of the local’s daily life. But do you know it even has a fairy tale about betel leaf and areca nut origins?

Read more: The formation and development of the patriarchy in Vietnam

The folk tale of betel nuts chewing in Vietnam

The story begins with a pair of twin brothers who love each other very much. Then, the older one, Tan, married with a woman and they lived together with the younger, Lang. One day, in the confusion of identifying her spouse, the wife mistakenly hugged the younger brother. Coincidentally, the older brother saw them.

Due to the shame and remorse, Lang left home and died at the riverside far away. On the place where he died, he became a block of limestone. Worried for the missing brother, Tan set off to find him. On the way, by a twist of fate, he exhausted and died at the same spot as his brother. From the spot, he turned into an areca plant.

betel nuts chewing in Vietnam kit

A deluxe kit of betel quids and tea to invite guests – Source: mytour

Waiting for a long time but Tan still not came back, the wife set out to find both. Finally, she found the place where the husband and his twin died. She collapsed in despair and became a betel vine that twined around the limestone and areca plant.

One day, the Hung King passed by the spot and found out these trees so strange. He sent servants to climb the tree to pick the fruit. Then, he ate it with the betel leaf and lime. Suddenly, from his mouth, there is a red color like blood. After knowing about the touching story of three persons, the king was moved by their passionate love.

Since then, the Hung King ordered people to breed these types of trees. Moreover, he forced boys and girls must find three dishes of betel, areca, and lime when they marry. It’s a way to remember that love never fades away. That’s also how the culture of betel nuts chewing in Vietnam started.

Betel nuts chewing in Vietnam – the meaning of a cultural beauty

betel nuts chewing in Vietnam Internet

A decoration of betel leaves and areca nuts in a wedding – Source: Internet

Betel leave and areca nut serve as offerings in many significant traditional ceremonies such as engagements, weddings, worship, funerals, etc. Like the above tale, they are a symbol of inseparable relationship. Hence, when mentioning a marriage, betel nut is the start of a conversation between the parents of groom and bride. Furthermore, they also appear in the engagement celebration as betrothal gifts. Giving the young couple the combination of betel and areca nut is a way to wish them to have an ideal marriage.

Besides, betel nuts chewing in Vietnam also helps people closer and open with each other. It’s not only a daily habit but an important etiquette ritual in Vietnamese culture. Not popular in the modern time, but in old time, inviting someone a quid of betel nut express your hospitality and respect toward them.

betel nuts chewing in Vietnam worship ancients

Betel nuts are also used in worship of Vietnamese people – Source: Ngo Toc

Otherwise, this traditional mixture not just serve in happy ceremonies but also in sad time like funeral or worship. Through beautiful quids, Vietnamese people memorial of old generations. If you pay attention a little more, you’ll see the existence of betel and areca on the plates dedicated to Vietnamese ancestors. Therefore, when in funerals, these symbolic dishes help to convey sympathy and sadness to the family of dead people.

In term of daily life, betel nuts chewing in Vietnam is simply a way to freshen the breath, especially with the female elders. The mixture of betel leaf, areca nut and lime makes the lips of those who eat them rosy. So in days of yore, girls can use this mixture as a make up tip.

betel nuts chewing in Vietnam red lips

A person of betel nuts chewing in Vietnam with red lips – Source: Matt Hahnewald

To sum up, this long-time custom has a special value in Vietnamese traditional culture. Not only as a unique dish but also an important element of locals spiritual life. Betel nuts chewing in Vietnam plays its role in lots of locals lifestyle aspects. Understand this custom is a closer step for you to have an insight of Vietnam culture.

A quid of betel – a diversified combination of taste

The materials are what make difference among many betel nuts chewing nations. For example, in Myanmar, they mix betel leaf with cardamom, cloves, and areca nut to enjoy. But in India, apart from basic elements, they add coconut or jam to make a sweet betel quid.

betel nuts chewing in Vietnam materials

Materials for a beautiful betel quid of Vietnamese chewers – Source: baomoi

Normally, a Vietnam betel quid consists of a quarter or half of the peeled areca nut wrapped in a betel leaf and are coated with a little lime. However, it depends on the region or personal preference that Vietnamese chewers add some other materials such as chay bark, cinnamon bark, tobacco, thuoc lao, etc. Vietnamese chewers use thuoc lao or tobacco after they spilled the rest of betel nuts to clean the black teeth or you can call it xia rang practice in Vietnamese.

betel nuts chewing in Vietnam phoenix quid

Phoenix-winged form is a favorite of folding a betel quid – Source: Wikipedia

The famous shape to make a betel quid is phoenix-winged form. In the old time, this form of quid served in royal ceremonies for king and nobles. It takes much effort to fold a beautiful quid so they are highly appreciated.

Thanks to the combination of various materials, when eating a quid, you can taste the sweet, spicy, and bitter at the same time. But in fact, the flavor is quite hard for foreigners or tourists to try betel nuts chewing in Vietnam.

Betel nuts chewing in Vietnam in modern time

betel nuts chewing in Vietnam wedding betrothal gifts

Betel nuts appear in a modern Vietnamese wedding as betrothal gifts – Source: Internet

Nowadays, this custom is only popular with elders, especially in rural area. Young people or urban residents prefer white teeth so they don’t have betel nuts chewing habit. Nevertheless, in the flow of time, the image of betel leaf and areca nuts still be available in engagements or weddings as offerings. This dish has a very significant role when telling about a wedding so they’re visible in every step of the process. Contained in the lovely red boxes, betel and areca represent for the inseparable connection and merry marriage of the couple. Moreover, in some diplomatic or cultural exchange events, betels leaves and areca nut are recommended to international friends as a valuable symbol of Vietnamese traditional culture.

In conclusion

betel nuts chewing in Vietnam modern time

An old woman are chewing betel nuts in Vietnam nowadays – Source: @tumivn

In times gone past, the betel nuts chewing in Vietnam still keeps its original cultural beauty. With a magnificent and profound meaning, it’s hard for anyone to refuse a pretty betel quid including the feeling and respect of the giver. If you’re on a Vietnam trip, don’t forget to give it a try for interesting cultural experiences.

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