Calligraphic watermelons a prized Tet offering in Hanoi

Calligraphic watermelons a prized Tet offering in Hanoi
Calligraphic watermelons are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Watermelons with calligraphic texts beautifully engraved on their peel are selling like hot cakes in Hanoi as residents are willing to pay up to VND700,000 (US$30) for a pair of the fruit, traditionally used as offerings during Lunar New Year festivals.

With less than a week away from the 2020 Lunar New Year, which will fall on January 25, shops in the Vietnamese capital are already selling their seasonal ‘special’ – calligraphic watermelons.

The decorative fruits are made by engraving regular watermelons, the rounder in shape the better, with calligraphy implying meaningful wishes for the Lunar New Year.

Commonly used words include ‘Chuc mung nam moi’ (Happy New Year) and ‘Phuc – Loc – Tho’ (Prosperity – Status – Longevity), the three attributes of a good life in Vietnamese belief.

“The job [of engraving watermelons] requires meticulousness and skill,” said Hoa, a shop owner at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District.

“It can take an experienced craftsman 3-4 hours to finish one engraving depending on the design’s complexity.”

Calligraphic watermelons are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Calligraphic watermelons are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

At Hang Luoc, such calligraphic watermelons are selling for VND400,000-700,000 ($17-30) a pair.

Meanwhile, watermelons with decorative texts hand-painted or printed on them are a cheaper option, fetching VND300,000 ($13) a pair on average.

Watermelons are often offered in pairs to ancestors and deities during Tet in Vietnam.

The fruit is sometimes featured in the Vietnamese ‘mam ngu qua’ (five-fruit tray) votive offering, signifying hope for a good and prosperous new year.

Calligraphic watermelons are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Calligraphic watermelons are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Calligraphic watermelons are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Calligraphic watermelons are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Calligraphic grapefruits are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Calligraphic grapefruits are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Calligraphic grapefruits are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Calligraphic grapefruits are sold at the Hang Luoc flower market in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

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