October 18, 2021
Vietnamese Culture

Vietnamese custom of betel chewing

Vietnamese custom of betel chewing

The first legend is The story of the betel leaf and areca nut:

During the reign of the Hung Kings, the Cao family had a pair of twin brothers named Tan and Lang. Their teacher Luu wanted to marry his daughter to the elder but could not distinguish them apart.  He asked his servants to bring a bowl of rice and a pair of chopsticks and then called both to the table. By that time, Lang ceded his meal to Tan. By that way, he knew Tan was the older. Teacher Luu later married his daughter to Tan. They were a happy couple.

After the marriage, the brotherhood between them changed. Lang realized that Tan was not as close to his younger brother as before. Lang felt sad with the invisible gap between them. So, Lang left home and wandered around. He reached a deep spring one day but could not cross it. He waited and waited, and kept on crying till death there. Then his body transformed into a lime-stone lying by the riverside.

Tan and his wife went home, did not see Lang. After the long absence of his brother, Tan became worried. Later he quietly sought his younger brother but did not tell his wife. On the way to the forest, he kept going and finally reached the spring flowing under the moonlight. He was unable to wade across. He sat on the edge of the stream, leaning against the limestone. He did not think the rock was his brother! Dew was still down.  All the branches and leaves were permanently shrouded in mist. He cried for a long time, fainted and died, and then transformed into a tree without branches, grows next to the rock.

At home, the wife did not see her husband, hurried to seek, and also followed the path into the forest. She went on, and then finally met the deep and blue string. She could walk anymore. She leaned against the root of the tree growing next to the limestone, mourning. She did not know the tree which she was leaning on was her husband and the limestone was her husband’s younger brother. She cried, but the sound of the stream was louder than her cry. It's almost morning, the dew-covered everywhere in the forest. She was still crying. She died and turned into a climbing plant climbing to the areca tree.

One day, King Hung went through this village, the people here told the story to the king. The king asked to take the vine leaves and the fruit in the tree without branches to crush together. It has a spicy taste when chewing. Then they spit the water on the stone, the water is gradually turned red. People call the tree is the areca tree, the vine is the betel tree, then heat the rock to eat together with betel and areca nut.

The story of the betel leaf and areca nut is symbolic of love and marriage. It also explains the use of betel leaves with lime and areca nut to show love in marriage. Until now, betel leaves and areca nut still become the indispensable things at Vietnamese engagements and weddings.