The Chinese New Year is 15 days long, and you may have been asked the ever-oft question: “Have girlfriend/boyfriend already or not?” for that whole duration.
Because there’s actually a gender ratio imbalance in Malaysia, it’s not uncommon for guys to not have girlfriends. After all, there are 107 guys for every 100 girls… so if you’re single, it’s not necessarily your fault!
But the Chinese people are nothing if not efficient, so if you’re tired of being constantly reminded that you’re single, the last day of Chinese New Year is your day to shine.
The 15th day of Chinese New Year is the Yuan Xiao Jie, or more commonly known in Malaysia by its Hokkien name Chap Goh Mei. Sometimes, this day is also known as “the Chinese Valentine’s Day”, as people seek out their soul mate on this day.
Traditionally, in other countries such as China, the day is actually known as the Lantern Festival, which shouldn’t be confused with the Mooncake Festival, which is also colloquially called the Lantern Festival in Malaysia.
The reason why the 15th Day is called the Lantern Festival is because lanterns are the main point of the festival. It’s celebrated with lantern watching of lantern designed after old Chinese folklore, the guessing of lantern riddles, and with the eating of tang yuan, glutinous rice balls in sweet soup, together with family.
Before the world had Tinder, the Chinese found love with matchmakers or oranges. Historically, most young women could only freely go out and mingle during the Lunar New Year festival periods, when they visited temples to pray. The young men would then hang around the area hoping for a glimpse of these girls.
Nowadays, there are so many ways to casually meet new people that many countries do not practice tossing mandarin oranges anymore, save for Malaysia.
While most other countries celebrate by playing lantern riddles and eating sweet rice ball desserts, Malaysia still maintains the tradition of finding love the old-fashioned way.
Young single girls will write their name and contact information on a mandarin orange and toss it into water. Then, young single men will scoop it out of the water and try to make a connection.
It was necessary back then to find their soul mate in this manner.
Of course, the practice isn’t just limited to young singles looking for love. Many people have started to write general well-wishes on the oranges simply to take part in the festivities.
Because Chap Goh Mei is such a major event within Hokkien communities, it is celebrated every year in Penang at the Esplanade in George Town. It’s also celebrated in hotspots such as the Taman Jaya lake in Petaling Jaya and certain areas in Klang.
If you’ve never tried the practice before, why not join in for fun on Saturday, February 8th? Who knows, you might actually find someone to spend Valentine’s Day with!
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.