Monday, 22 February 2016

Yuan Xiao Jie 元宵节 2016

Chap Goh Meh

Chap Goh Meh (also known as the Lantern Festival) is a Chinese festival celebrated on the 15th day of the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar.
 
During the Lantern Festival, it is common to see colourful paper lanterns and competitions for solving traditional riddles in Buddhist temples. The air is festive and bright with lion dance, dragon dance, firecrackers and various other traditional performances.
 
Chap Goh Meh or Tzap Goh Mei represents the 15th and final day of the Lunar New Year period as celebrated by the Chinese communities. The term is from the Hokkien dialect and the day auspiciously coincides with the first full moon of the New Year.
 
The occasion is marked by feasting and various festivities, including the consumption of tangyuan (glutinous rice ball). In traditional Chinese culture, the Lantern Festival is also known as the Yuan Xiao Festival. In Southeast Asia, however, it coincides with the Chinese Valentine's Day. A day when young unmarried women gather to toss mandarin oranges into a river, in the hope that their future spouse will pick up their orange or 'choose them' – a custom that originated in Penang, Malaysia.
 
 
Chap Goh Meh Chinese Valentines Day
 
Chap Goh Meh (sometimes spelled Chap Goh Mei) marks the last day of the Chinese New Year celebration.  It’s been two weeks of fun food and firecrackers, with Hokkien New Year being the halftime show.  Now it’s time for the unmarried ladies to go down to the Esplanade and throw oranges in the water.  Wait… uh why?
 
Apparently, the first full moon of the new year (lunar solar new year that is) is an auspicious time to find love.  Some people say it is similar to Valentines day.  Some call it Chinese Valentine’s Day. This year, 2014, it lands on Valentine’s day!  How much more auspicious can you get.
 
As the story goes, years ago, when the Chinese families protected their young maidens by keeping them inside all the time, they would have a special parade on Chap Goh Mei.  A Nyonya friend of ours remembers that the clans in Penang would have this out in the Esplanade.  The young ladies would be decked out in their finest clothes and the eligible bachelors spy out the ones that they’ll ask the professional matchmakers to start negotiations.  There are a lot of stories about how couples found each other on this holiday.  One story is about a young man who was the subject of a bait and switch by a young lady’s family.
 
 
Chap Goh Meh! "A Festivals Of Romance"
 
On the 15th day of Chinese Lunar year, Chinese community in Penang celebrated Chap Goh Meh. According to legend, this fascinating festival tells a story of a lonely young man who during his first outing saw one of the most beautiful women his sights ever laid on. He was immediately enraptures by her stunning looks.
 
Despite the excitement and exhilaration pounding in his heart, the young man quickly jotted down the number of her car. On the very next day, he made a search and enquiries on which this car belongs to. When he got to know the address, he quickly asks his mother to send a matchmaker to his dream girl's home to arrange the marriage. In such haste and without investigation, the young man did not realize that the beautiful girl he had seen that day was actually not the daughter of the house but a visiting niece.
 
And so on his wedding day, the poor groom found that instead of looking at the radiant smiling girl he had expected, he was to be married to her fat and rather plain cousin. The story does have a rather happy ending though, as his wife was a wealthy woman!
 
 
Rediscovering the romance of Chap Goh Mei
A romantic spot on the streets of Chinatown on Chap Goh Mei
 
The fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year, Chap Goh Mei (Hokkien for 15th night) as it has been commonly referred to in Singapore, has traditionally been associated with romance. It was perhaps in the hope of rediscovering the romance of a festival that has been lost in the embrace of modernity that drew a healthy crowd of participants to a walk through the streets of Chinatown on the evening of the fifteenth day this year on what coincidentally was also the western day for the celebration of romance, St. Valentine’s Day that was organised by the Conservation Management Department of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
 
The fifteenth night of any Chinese lunar month is of course one that, weather conditions permitting, would be illuminated by the light of the full moon – a setting that certainly is ideal for romance. In the case of Chap Goh Mei, it is a night when Yuanxiao Jie (元宵节) is celebrated, providing an evening for romance to be found not only in the light of the moon, but also in the glow of colourful lanterns; it having been a tradition to have lanterns displayed outside homes and along five-foot-ways, as it was for children to take to the streets carrying lanterns in a fashion similar to the Mid-Autumn festival.
 
The search for romance would take many eligible young men and women to the water’s edge the waterfront along Esplanade was, I am told, a particularly popular spot, from which fruits would be aimed into the water. For the ladies, it would be oranges, representing good husbands, that would be thrown, and for men, good wives taking the form of apples – a practice that I actually did not know about until more recent times.