Vietnamese People’s Betel Chewing Custom

Coming to Vietnam nowadays, going to any wedding, we see among the gifts that the groom’s family brings to the bride’s family, there always is a tray of betel leaves and areca nuts. We also see some old women chew betel leisurely and happily every day. when was Betel eating custom formed?  How does it mean? How does it show in life? This article helps us understand the Vietnamese People’s Betel Chewing Custom – a unique custom of Vietnamese people.

Legend of Betel and Areca

In the fourth Hung King reign, there were 2 twin brothers. They were very similar, even the voice. The older brother’s name was Tan, and the younger brother’s name was Lang. Two brothers loved each other very much. When getting married, Tan no longer took care of his younger brother as before. One day Lang came home from work first. The wife thought that was her husband, being very happy and hugging. At that time, Tan arrived home, seeing that, suspecting that his younger brother and his wife had feelings for each other. Since then, he had been very sad and more indifferent to his younger brother.
Lang was extremely self-pity; one day Tan was away; Lang left home, went far away. Arriving a stream, Lang was too tired, collapsed to death, and turned into a limestone block. Tan didn’t see his younger brother come back; he decided to look for his younger brother. Going to the bank of the stream, Tan was exhausted and sat leaning on the limestone block; he died, turning into a tree without branches. Tan’s wife did not see her husband turn and went looking. Arriving the stream, she was too tired, hugged the tree trunk without branches; she died, turning into a vine. Later, that story came to everyone’s ears, they were extremely merciful. They named the tree without branches Areca, and the vine was Betel.

One day King Hung went through that place; people brought the story of the three people to tell the king; the king came to see. The king asked to take a Betel leaf to crush with an Areca nut, and he tried chewing. He found delicious and spit the juice on the limestone block; the juice gradually turned red. King Hung ordered everyone to breed these two plants and forced a boy and a girl when getting married, they had to look for three items: betel leaves, areca nuts, and lime so that everyone chewed to remember the story of the deep feelings between the husband and the wife, between the older brother and the younger brother.

A piece of betel

A piece of betel is a mixture consisting of a betel leaf, an areca nut, a little lime, and some tobaccos. When chewing, the chewer chews the betel leaf, the areca nut, and the lime, and then uses the tobacco to rub his or her mouth. Chewing the piece of betel, the chewer has feelings of sweetness, spiciness, hotness, and pleasure in mind.

The tools used to chew betel

The tools used to Chew betel consist of a betel tray made of wood, having a square with 30cm side, carved with very beautiful flowers, birds, and animals; or a betel box having a circle with 25cm diameter, made of copper or silver; a spit tube shaped like a flowerpot, the mouth has a diameter of 20cm, also made copper or silver; a tube used to make a piece of betel soft as big as a big toe, also made of copper.

Vietnamese People’s Betel Chewing Custom

Vietnamese People’s Betel Chewing Custom – tools used to eat betels in Vietnam at a museum.

The occasions to chew betel

Chewing betel on ordinary days. Before 1945, many old women had chewed betel, some girls and some old men also had done, too. The old women and the old men chewed betel because of addiction. The girls chewed betel to make charm; their lips would redder, and their mouths would more fragrant. Today just some old women over 60 years old chew betel because of protecting health and new aesthetic view.

Using betel to treat guests

Vietnamese proverbs have sentences, “A piece of betel is the beginning of a story.” Formerly,  when guests arrived at home, old women usually invited them to chew a piece of betel first. That showed the enthusiasm of the host, and it also was politeness which showed respect between people and people. Today that is less popular in Vietnam.

Using betel as an offering at wedding

Betel – areca is a symbol of the spousal deep love. Vietnamese people consider it to be the most important offering in the wedding. It shows the respect of the groom’s family towards the bride’s family. The bride’s parents are very proud to get to eat the betel – areca on this day; It shows the bride’s repayment to her parents.

A tray of areca nuts and betel leaves is a must at Vietnamese wedding - Vietnamese People’s Betel Chewing Custom

Vietnamese People’s Betel Chewing Custom – A tray of areca nuts and betel leaves is a must at Vietnamese wedding.

Betel chewing is a good custom of Vietnamese people and has existed for thousands of years. It is a symbol of deep love between husband and wife, brothers. The betel chewing custom has not only in Vietnam but also in some countries of Eastern Asia and Southeastern Asia.

Read more about Vietnamese wedding traditions – Everything you need to know

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