Symbol of Inseparable Marriage

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Betel leaves and areca nuts are important symbols of love and marriage in Vietnam. The phrase "matters of betel and areca" synonymously indicates marriages. One day before the wedding day, the groom’s family consisting of senior representatives in the extended clan visits the bride’s home with a gift of betel nuts, Phu The cakes and even money to officially ask permission to receive the bride. The two families talk and confirm the wedding and other proceedings will soon take place.

The practice of chewing areca nuts and betel leaves starts the discussion about the preparations. Though this rarely exists anymore in modern receptions in cities, areca and betel still have ceremonial meanings during such an important day. The offering of areca nuts and betel leaves is originated from the folk tale which illustrates the belief that love is forever and marriage is inseparable, which both families want for the couple.

Once upon a time, a feudal official has two sons named Tan and Lang who look such similar as twin brothers that outsiders cannot distinguish between the two. When they are seventeen and eighteen years old, the father dies. Their brotherhood becomes stronger and stronger. As they no longer get education from the father, both enroll into the school of Mr. Luu. They study hard and are respectful, thus winning the teacher’s heart. The teacher has a beautiful daughter aged 16, and her beauty is far more than any girls in the village.    

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The girl sees that these two men are both handsome and gentle. She falls in love and wants to pick Tan, the elder brother. However she cannot distinguish the two.  One day, as her family cooks a soup, she takes a bowl and one pair of chopsticks to the brothers. She then watches them, and notices that the younger man invites his brother first. She then recognizes the older brother and asks her father to marry him. 

Since marriage, their brotherhood is not as strong as before. Tan treats him less intimately. Lang is very sad but Tan does not know that.

One day, they get home late at night after a hard day in the farm. Lang gets into the house first. As he crosses the gate, his sister in law hugs him as she thinks it is Tan. Lang yields aloud, making both embarrassed. At that moment, Tan steps in and thinks that his brother is cheating him. Their relationship becomes less and less intimate since then.

One afternoon, Lang is home alone overlooking the distant forest, and feels desolate and sad. He stands up and leaves. 

He goes and goes, until he reaches the forest in the front. He follows the trail that leads into the centre of the forest. It gets dark, the moon is rising yet he keeps walking. At the stream of blue and deep waters, he cannot wade through, and has to rest on the bank. He cries and cries.  Late at night, when thick fog is falling down more and more, cold mist gradually absorbs into his flesh. He dies while still sitting impassively and transforms into a lime stone. 

Getting home, Tan could not find his brother and starts to go out and look for him without telling his wife. He also follows the trail to the forest. He reaches the stream and could not cross it. He leans against the stone crying and crying. Thick fog is falling down while he is crying hard. He faints out and dies, turning into a tree growing by the stone. 

At home, his wife does not see her husband. She in a hurry gets out in order to find him and follows the trail deep into the woods. She walks farther and farther and finally reaches the deep-water stream. She is no longer able to walk. She sits leaning on the tree by the stone and starts crying. At midnight, she dies and transforms into a vine wrapping tightly the tree. 

Gradually the story is known to villagers. One day King Hung passes by the place. People tell the King of the story and bring him to the stream.  The King tells people to try to take leaves of the vines and fruit in the tree and grind them together. He tastes the paste and finds it delicious. He spits water on the rock and it turns red. He then recommends eating this during wedding ceremonies to wish strong ties and belief for couples. People then call the tree the areca tree, and the vine betel tree. They get part of the stone and bake it for foam in order to eat with betel leaves, areca nuts. Their mouth turns fragrant, with red lips. 

The relationship of the three is still strong even after life. Therefore in any meetings and engagement of the Vietnamese people, matters of areca nuts and betel leaves are important, the start of a new strong relation. Chewing betel has become inherent process of the Vietnamese nation in any ceremonies however small and large they are. For long time, it has become part of wedding ceremonies, and is still practiced throughout the country. Areca nuts and betel leaves become the symbol of inseparable marriage.  


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