Five-fruit Tray at Tet

Five-fruit Tray at Tet

Mam Ngu Qua or Five-Fruit Tray in English can not be short at Lunar New Year Festival – the biggest celebration in Vietnam. Besides square glutinous rice cake, flower and foods, Five-Fruit Tray is used to offer to ancestors and decorate the living rooms of every family. Five-fruit Tray at Tet is one of the most beautiful part of Vietnamese culture for many years. Are you wondering which fruits are used and what Mam Ngu Qua’s meaning is?

Mother Nature give Vietnam a wide range of delicious and healthy fruits. Five-fruit tray is an offer to the Earth and the Sky as a big thank of Vietnamese people. It’s also the offer to family’s ancestors who is worshiped on the altar. Why do they choose five kinds of fruits? In East Asia and Southeast Asia, number three and number five are symbol of luck. In Vietnam, people choose five kinds of fruits to show their wishes for best things and luck in new year. The selection of fruits isn’t the same in different regions but each fruit usually symbolizes for good things. In recent days, there could be more than five kinds of fruits on the tray. Fruits should be fresh and look great to be arranged as a decoration in a house.

In North of Vietnam, five kinds of fruit are usually banana, pomelo, peach, persimmon and mandarin. The ancients based on shape and color of each fruit to give it a meaning as below:

– Banana symbolize for crowded, reunited family;

– Pomelo symbolize for security- good health and prosperity;

– Peach symbolize for hope to the future;

– Persimmon symbolize for richness;

– Mandarin symbolize for success.

Five-fruit Tray at Tet in Northern Vietnam

Five-fruit Tray at Tet in North Vietnam

In Central Vietnam, because the soil is poor, there are not lots of fruits, people use any fruits as long as they are fresh and clean to arrange five-fruit tray. Popular fruits used to arranged Mam Ngu Qua in Central Vietnam are dragon fruit, banana, watermelon, pineapple, oranges and mandarin.

Tray Of Five Fruits In Central Vietnam
Five-fruit Tray at Tet in Central Vietnam – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

In South Vietnam the ancients based on the homonymous phenomenon to set meaning for each fruit of Mam Ngu Qua.

– Mãng cầu (Soursop) – the same sound as “cầu” in “cầu mong” (wish)

– Sung (fig) – the same sound “sung” in “sung túc” (well-to-do)

– Dừa (coconut) – the same sound “vừa” in “vừa phải” (overage)

– Đu đủ (papaya) – the same sound “đủ” in “đầy đủ”  (enough, not short)

– Xoài (mango) – the same sound “sài” in “tiêu sài”  (spend)

The phrase “Cầu sung vừa đủ sài” means wishing to earn enough to spend and live in good condition. The phrase shows that the goal in life Vietnamese people is not high, they are really modest and honest.

Feast At Tet Festival
Five-fruit Tray at Tet in South Vietnam

However, Southern people avoid using some kinds of fruit that do not have good meaning:

– Chuối (banana) – the same sound as “chúi” (to bend one’s head forward)

– Lê (pear) – the same sound as “lê” (to drag one’s feet)

– Cam (orange) – the same sound as “cam” in “cam chịu” (to accept things that are not good)

Although selection of fruits are different from region to region, all show respect and gratitude to ancestor and the wish having a security, good health and prosperity in the next year of Vietnamese people.

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