The Five-Fruit Tray of Tet

Every Lunar New Year, on the family altar of every Vietnamese family, there is a five-fruit tray as an offering to the ancestors. The five – fruit tray in Tet represents the five elements – jin (metal), mu (wood), shui (water), huo (fire), and tu (earth). These are believed by Vietnamese people, and Asian cultures in general, to have constituted the universe. The fruit tray usually includes five kinds of fruit.

Depending on the natural characteristics, customs and concepts of each region, different fruits are chosen based on their specific meanings. Based on colour theory in Eastern philosophy, the fruit trays must have five fruits with five different colours. The fruits displayed on altars are harvested from people’s sweat and tears – the efforts of many people working hard through each harvest season. When spring comes, the people respectfully offer these fruits to their ancestors.

Each kind of fruit selected for display on the fruit tray of Tet has its own meaning:

  • Pear:The sweetness implies that everything is smooth.
  • Pomegranate: Many seeds symbolize a family with many children and grandchildren.
  • Peach: Shows advancement.
  • Yellow apricot blossom: Happiness.
  • Fingered Citron: Like the hand of the Buddha, always protecting humans.
  • Apple: Wealth.
  • Persimmon, Tangerine: Success.
  • Dragon fruit (converging cloud and dragon): Financial development.
  • Grapefruit, watermelon: Round and cool, promising sweetness and luck.
  • Green bananas: Like an upward hand, holding luck and protection.
  • Lucuma: Luck from heaven.
  • Fig: The symbol of fullness in health and money.
  • Papaya: Prosperity.
  • Mango: Has a similar sound to “spending” in Vietnamese, praying for enough to spend without shortage.

The North

Mâm Ngũ Quả Ngày Tết - Northern
Mâm Ngũ Quả Ngày Tết – Northern

In the North, the five-fruit tray often has banana, grapefruit, peach, persimmon and tangerine. Bananas are often placed at the bottom to carry all other fruits. A beautiful five-fruit tray is a tray full of brilliant colours. In the middle of the green bananas is the pomelo or the attractive, yellow-fingered citron.

Red ripe fruits are placed around, and alternating spaces are filled with yellow tangerines, green apples or berry red chillies, providing the final touches.

The Central Region

People in the Central region between the North and the South and are culturally influcenced by both. The five-fruit tray has

  • bananas,
  • soursop,
  • figs,
  • coconuts,
  • papayas,
  • and mangoes.

The South

Southern people are very picky when choosing fruit for their five-fruit trays. Since the pronunciation of banana is very similar to the word “slip” (showing challenges) in Vietnamese, bananas never appear in the fruit tray.

The five-fruit trays of the Southern people often contain soursop, coconut, papaya, mango, and fig. With this combination, the pronunciation of the fruit names in Vietnamese sounds like “Pray to have enough to spend.” In addition, three pineapples at the bottom show stability. Lastly, a pair of watermelons is an indispensable part of the tray of southern Vietnamese people.

Health benefits

These fruits have many health and beauty benefits. Consult with experts before using, especially if you are having health problems.

Soursop

Rich in vitamins C, B, A, potassium and magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, soursop helps to boost the immune system, improve eyesight, protects the skin, keeps hair healthy and shiny, helps you stay young, prevents cold and influenza, prevents cardiovascular disease, reduces symptoms and prevents some conditions relating to joints. It prevents constipation, diarrhea, and fights infections. In addition, soursop contains a concentration of carbohydrate that helps reduce blood sugar. Some studies suggested that soursop juice is more effective at destroying cancer cells than chemotherapy, but the results are not yet confirmed. For a long time, soursop folk medicine said it cured many diseases, including the ability to dissolve tumors, deworm, fight intestinal parasites, fight depression, fatigue, and neurological disorders.

Coconut

Since ancient times, coconut has been considered the tree of life. All parts of coconuts can be used. In coconut water there is almost all the nutrients needed for the body. Rich in vitamin Bs, C, and antioxidants, it contains sugars, proteins, and minerals that are good sources of energy and create an electrolyte balance. Plus it is a nutritious food source. The potassium and magnesium in coconut water is similar that in human fluids, so it is often used for patients with diarrhea. Coconut water beautifies the skin, and makes hair silky and black. Young coconut kernels (soft like jelly) contain many enzymes good for digestion. They are used to treat stomach ulcers, hepatitis, diabetes, dysentery, hemorrhoids, and colon inflammation. The polysaccharide in coconut water stimulates immunity to pulmonary tuberculosis. In addition, many cosmetic brands put coconut oil into their beauty formulas because of its ability to lighten the skin naturally, and make hair healthy and shiny.

Papaya

Papaya contains 90 per cent water, lots of fiber and antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, A, B1, B2 vitamins, caretenoids, carotene, and minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Papaya is good for blood, helps heal the liver in people with malaria, fights anti-oxidation, boosts our immune system, strengthens our heart health and digestive systems, enhances resistance and is an anti-inflammatory.  The enzymes contained in papaya, plus large amounts of vitamin A help beautify and increase the measurement of women’s breasts. Eating green papaya is a natural birth control pill without side effects because papain is found in green papaya.

Mango

Some benefits of mango include increased vision, cardiovascular protection, digestion support, memory improvement and cancer prevention. Vitamins found in mangoes include A and C. There is also vitamin B6 that helps increase memory and prevents Alzheimer’s disease which causes memory loss and declining cognitive ability. The fiber in this fruit is also very beneficial for the health.

Pomegranate

Rich in ellagic acid and antioxidants that keep your body healthy, reduce blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular diseases. Pomegranates are an abundant source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamins A, E, B, B2, folic acid, and phosphorus. These are beneficial in strengthening the body’s immune system, and help to increase bone density and protect joints. This fruit is also known to reduce prostate cancer development, improve erectile dysfunction, and increases sexual desire in men. Frequent pomegranate juice consumption can slow the aging progress, resulting in smooth, youthful skin. It also helps ease birthing pains in women and reduces the risk of brain damage in newborns.

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