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?
Chap Goh Meh

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.

So what’s the deal with the oranges?

There was an ancient Chinese practice for young maidens to throw oranges into lakes with the belief that the young man who picked up that particular orange would be the future husband for that young lady.  As these traditions are wont to do, it morphed to being good luck to throw an orange into the lakes and rivers for the gods of romance to take notice.

In recent years, the Esplanade is a place where the young singles gather for this festival.  Some call it the orange throwing festival.  Young ladies use permanent markers to put their names and phone numbers on oranges that are thrown into the water.  Teams of young men in boats try to gather as many oranges as they can.  The team with the most oranges win some kind of prize.

Georgetown - Orange Throwing Festival

In other parts of the world, the Chap Goh Mei festival is called the Lantern Festival.  But in Malaysia and Singapore, the Lantern Festival is celebrated as part of the mid-autumn harvest festival.  While it isn’t called that in Malaysia, there will be no shortage of Chinese lanterns decorating the Esplanade and other festival locations.

List of Penang Chap Goh Meh events

  1. It looks like Straits Quay will be having a combination event with Chap Goh Meh landing on Valentines day.  They’re calling it East meets West V Day.  They will be having the orange throwing as well as other Baba Nyonya cultural events.  Go check it out if you can.
  2. The Lions and Leo Club will be doing something at the Esplanade.

Have more events.  Put a link in the comments below and I’ll add it to the list.