Chap Goh Mei is basically the last day of the Chinese New Year festival which is celebrated on the fifteenth day. The term Chap Goh Mei is derived from the Hokkien dialect when translated simply means the 15th night of Chinese New Year. Chap Goh Mei is also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day, another significant purpose for this day besides being tagged as the last day of celebrations. This is also a night where family members come together and have a meal while offerings and prayers are also held in conjunction with the celebrations.
Just like the first day of Chinese New Year, Chap Goh Mei is celebrated on a grand scale as the houses are decorated with bright lights and red lanterns. You can see that many of the houses provide offerings for the deities as the candles and joss sticks flicker in the wind. If you go to temples you can see many of the devotees perform prayers and asking the God of Prosperity to bless them with success and wealth for the coming year. The night will also be filled with activities as you may be able to witness cultural performances, lion dances and other various activities which you will have to wait another year for should you miss out on it that night.
As mentioned before, the last day is also marked as the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day which will definitely bring forth lots of fun and gaiety. On this night of courtship the young ladies will dress to the nines and go to the temples in hope of finding their prospective suitors. In Malaysia most of the single people turn out on this night for the same purpose of match-making.
However instead of going to temples and finding their significant other, what most of them do is take mandarin oranges and write their name and phone number on it. Then they would throw it into a lake or a pond which traditionally signifies that the lady is available for marriage, however in modern times it is usually to find a boyfriend. This is definitely one of the main highlights of Chap Goh Mei and something that is popular amongst the youths even until today.
You would think that this tradition was passed on from China however it is not. In fact it originated from our very own shores in the state of Penang. The tradition of throwing mandarin oranges started sometime ago in the late 19th century. So every year on that particular day you would see throngs and throngs of single people flock to the Esplanade armed with mandarin oranges and personal information scribbled on the skin of the oranges.
Another tradition with regards to Chap Goh Mei is that this is the only day throughout the whole year where the young maidens would be allowed to walk the streets but they must be accompanied by a chaperon. The young men would also go out and in hopes of catching a glimpse of the young maiden and taking their hand in marriage. Obviously this does not happen anymore but the concept of match-making still lives on.
Image Credit – VisitPenang.Gov.My