Why Watermelons Are Popular Hostess Gifts In China

As the weather gets warmer and invitations to barbecues, pool parties, and other summery events start rolling in, would you ever consider skipping traditional host or hostess gifts such as flowers or wine, for a watermelon? As unusual as it might sound to Westerners, and while large fruit never took off as a present in the United States, watermelons are actually a welcomed and traditional gift for hosts and hostesses in China (via Reader's Digest). And why not? Most people find watermelon delicious and hydrating on a hot summer day. Moreover, in some Asian countries, including China, the watermelon holds particular cultural and symbolic significance (via The Journal of Agriculture).

According to the website Asia One, the rounded shape of a watermelon "is considered lucky in feng shui," and, with its many seeds, the watermelon symbolizes abundance and prosperity. Lastly, the color red, like the flesh of the watermelon, is a symbol of luck as well as happiness and success, according to That's Mandarin.

In addition to relieving thirst for centuries, says The Journal of Agriculture, watermelon has "added many connotations to the traditional Chinese culture, and influenced China's agricultural development." The journal calls the watermelon a part of "traditional folk culture," and a vital symbol of China's agricultural heritage. It adds that the fruit has a "cultural value and social value... [that] should be protected and passed down." What better way is there to do that than presenting a watermelon as a gift?

Watermelons are gifted in Japan as well

Although watermelon has been cultivated in China for hundreds of years, the roots of Citrullus lanatus can be traced to tropical Africa (via Britannica). The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred 5,000 years ago in Egypt, according to The National Watermelon Promotion Board. Centuries of breeding have created larger, sweeter watermelons with fewer seeds, and today more than 1,200 varieties are cultivated in nearly 100 countries. China is the most prolific producer of these melons. The United States is the seventh-largest.

Watermelon is a popular party gift not only in China but also in Japan, according to Shiho Masuda. "People in Japan often send watermelons to each other as a summer greeting gift," says the website. 

While you might not bring watermelon as a gift to an event, there are great ways to serve this lucky fruit at your next get-together. Aside from just eating the fruit, you can use it to make watermelon margaritas, or even make a watermelon gazpacho, salsa, or appetizers. You can even use watermelon as a "keg" for mojitos or other summery drinks.

Whether you tie it up in a big red bow for your host or serve it at your own party, here's hoping watermelons bring you luck and prosperity this summer!