Have you ever wondered why men throw oranges into the river during Chap Goh Mei?
by Tommy Duncan, Carrybeans
Literally, Chap Goh Mei means ‘fifteenth night’ in Hokkien. It refers to the 15th day of the Lunar New Year and marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations (also known as Yuan Xiao Jie).
Similar to the many celebratory days of Chinese New Year, Chap Goh Mei is marked by fireworks and firecrackers. Red lanterns and cloths still deck homes while and temples hold thanksgiving ceremonies and pray for success in the coming year.
Some homes and businesses put up cultural performances, lantern displays, and lion or dragon dances. Many Malaysian homes still carry on the tradition of open houses and family gatherings.
Yes, did you know that Chap Goh Mei is also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day?
There are many colourful stories regarding this day. One of them is that back in the olden days, young and unmarried Chinese girls were not allowed to simply roam the streets. However, they would be allowed out (chaperoned, of course) on Chap Goh Mei.
And so of course, interested young men hoping to catch a glimpse of beautiful maidens would come out on the night and gather in communal areas. Legend has it that a matchmaker from the moon would tie red strings of destiny to their legs, and so a couple would end up together.
Traditionally, single ladies would also throw mandarin oranges into the river or sea, in hopes of finding a good husband. This is by far the most fun and longest-lasting tradition! Now that we’re in the 21st century, it is a tradition that is still kept by many single ladies.
You may be thinking this practice originated in China, but it’s actually Malaysian! Yes, it first took place in Penang towards the turn of the 19th century. Every year, a large crowd gathers at Esplanade, Penang (next to Fort Cornwallis) for a night of fun. Today, some women even write their name, phone number and Facebook details on the oranges. Hopefully, they’ll get a call from Prince Charming.
As the years have gone by, a fun spin has been put on it with some men who choose to throw bananas into the sea on this night with their contact details written on them. They hope the ladies would pick them up.
Have you ever been to any Chap Goh Mei activity? Or did you see people throwing oranges here in KK? Let us know in the comments below!
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Featured Image Credit: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash