Chap Goh Meh: Fifteenth Day of Chinese Lunar New Year, Lantern Festival and Chinese Valentine Day

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is celebrated from 1st until 15th day of the first month in the Chinese Lunar calendar. As Chinese calendar is influenced by the motion of the moon, a bright big full moon usually is evident on the fifteenth day of lunar month.

‘Chap Goh Meh’ is a Hokkien dialect which means ‘Fifteenth Night’ is a significant celebration in Penang whereby majority of Chinese Penangites are Hokkien (Fujian). Over the past years, various activities would be put up to celebrate this auspicious day including sumptous feasting, culture shows, lion dance, dragon dance, lantern lighting and the highlight of the night – tangerines tossing.
Lantern Festival at Kek Lok Si Temple

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Tangerines or Mandarin oranges toss is a traditional culture popularized by South East Asia Chinese as a means for a single lady to find for her life partner. In the past several decades, the maidens would ride along coastal roads to toss the oranges into the sea with the wish to find a good spouse. Chap Goh Meh was also the only night of the year that the unmarried women were allowed to meet up or went on a date with their sweethearts. And in Penang Esplanade, it turns into an annual event to celebrate the Chinese Valentine’s Day which also coincides with Chap Goh Meh.
Tangerines are written with name and contact number
Many years back, tossing or throwing oranges was organised as a competition whereby a team were made up of females and males and be placed at different location according to their gender. Thousands of Mandarin oranges will be tossing by ladies from the shore towards the sea. Then, these oranges were supposed to be scouped and collected by their male team partners on a boat. And the team with most tangerines would be the winner in this match!

While in traditional Chinese culture, the Fifteenth Night is also celebrated as Lantern Festival. Lantern Festival is also mistakenly called for Mid Autumn Festival in Malaysia/Singapore whereby it is associated with moon cakes. However, the original Lantern Festival is known as Little New Year that marks the official ends of Chinese New Year. During this auspicious day, children will be visiting temples with paper lanterns and having fun trying to solve the riddles on the lanterns. This lantern parade culture is also adopted by Kek Lok Si Temple in Ayer Itam, Penang as thousands of lanterns are lighted up annually for 15 days during Chinese New Year.
Garden of the lights at Kek Lok Si Pagoda in Ayer Itam, Penang
If you are in Penang, come and let us paint the town red in the Chap Goh Mei celebration organized by Penang State Government at Esplanade (or Jalan Padang Kota Lama), Penang on 9 February 2009 from 7pm to 11pm. Refer here for the activities lined up specially for you.

See you there!

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