THOUSANDS of people from all walks of life converged on the famed Kuan Yin Tong temple in Ipoh to celebrate the last day of Chinese New Year – the Chap Goh Meh festival.
Known also as the Chinese-style Valentine’s Day, some took part in the tradition of tossing mandarin oranges into the river in front of the cave temple.
Single hopefuls wrote their name, age and contact number on the mandarin oranges, while couples took part as well to wish for happiness.
For families and the elderly, the festival was an opportunity to spend time together.
They indulged in food and fun activities at booths inside and outside of the temple, while some sat through a line-up of Chinese New Year performances.
The most compelling feature of the night was cai deng mi (guessing the lantern riddle), where riddles were hung under every red lantern in the foyer.
Celebrants were looking through each riddle animatedly, cracking their heads to figure out the answer whether it was in the form of a Chinese idiom, a single Chinese word, a place or an item.
One of them was homemaker Wendy Lai, 60, who was at the festival with her husband and friends.
“I come here every year during Chap Goh Meh to pray and it is so nice to see the temple going all out to usher in people to celebrate this festival.
“Not only do festivals like this offer a chance for the Chinese community to gather, but it allows the young to learn more about our traditions as well,” she said.
For administrative assistant Nicole Ooi, 29, and Emily Choong, 25, it was their first time here along with a group of their colleagues.
“We wanted to see what a real Chap Goh Meh celebration is like.
“We will also be tossing mandarin oranges, but it is more to make a wish for our lives instead of purely wishing to meet a significant other in the future,” said Ooi, adding that she was having a lot of fun with the lantern riddles as she could solve some of them.
Meanwhile, couple Edge Foo, 25, and Tracy Lee, 23, said they were at the temple because they happened to be having dinner at a restaurant opposite the place.
“We saw many people gathering here and thought of coming over to check out what the Chap Goh Meh festival is all about. I really love the sea of lanterns hanging in the foyer because even though Chinese New Year is ending, it still feels like it is the first day to me,” said Foo.
As per their annual tradition, Kuan Yin Tong chairman Ho You Meng said the temple has hosted no less than 20 activities since Valentine’s Day.
“These activities revolve around themes such as charity, medicine, recycling and tourism.
“Through these activities, we aim to change the attitude of young devotees towards Buddhism as well,” he said.
Ho added that the cave temple was successful today because of the unwavering support and contribution from their benefactors and the public.
“It is also with the cooperation between government officials and the temple that most of our activities can be carried out smoothly.
“We still have much to develop and we are looking to set up a RM1mil education fund to help poor families put their children in school and higher learning institutions,” he said.
The festival ended near midnight with a stunning 15-minute display of fireworks, followed by cheers and applause from celebrants.