Legend of the Betel Leaves and the Areca

There are festivals throughout the year as you may well discover if you take a Vietnam Holiday. When you talk to a Vietnam travel agent, and discuss dates, why not ask about festivals that take place. If you have some flexibility on dates, you may be able to see a festival. All festivals are huge celebrations which involve dressing up in traditional costumes in many cases, as well as remembering ancestors who are regarded as very important in Vietnamese society.

legend of the betel leaves and the areca in vietnam

There are several things that are common to all festivals and one of them involves serving betel leaves and areca nuts for guests to chew as conversations start. Both of these things are definitely essential at engagement parties and weddings because these leaves and nuts are symbolic of love and marriage. Why so?

Many years ago, two twins of the Cao family, Tan the elder and Lang the younger were tutored by a Taoist, Chu Chu, who lived with his teenage daughter. Tan married the girl and they lived happily but Lang felt he was treated less well by Tan once he got married. It was not jealousy but he did not know what to do.

Lang decided to go wandering around the countryside and came across a river that seemed impassable. He certainly was unable to swim across it. There was no boat so he sat down and cried. He died and was transformed into limestone on the river bank.

Tan was worried about Lang’s disappearance and went to look for his twin. On reaching the same river, he was tired and sat on the limestone and died himself, being turned into an areca tree. Tan’s wife was equally concerned that her husband had been gone for some time and so then began searching for him. She also arrived at the river and when she leaned against the areca tree, she too died, turning into the leaves of a plant climbing up the tree.

When the locals heard about the tragedy, they built a temple to commemorate the Tan and his wife as well as Lang. King Hung himself visited the site to hear more of the story. He ordered his men to grind one of the leaves with an areca nut and some lime. The juice that was produced was delicious and so he decided to recommend it be served at every marital ceremony, starting with the engagement party.

One of the important things to remember when you are enjoying a Vietnam tour package is that local hospitality is gladly given and it is rude to refuse anything that is offered. There may be a chance of seeing an engagement party or a wedding when you are in rural areas. If you do so, you are virtually certain to be offered this mixture of areca nut, betel leaf and lime. The colour is blood-red and the taste tangy. Enjoy it!