Chap Goh Meh flurry sees out CNY season


(From left) Friends Wong Xing Dai, 74, Lee Chiew and Liew next to a dragon sculpture. Lee Chiew says her family does not celebrate Chap Goh Meh anymore while Liew says it is a hassle for the older folk to make preparations. — Photos: AMANDA LEE, GLODIE LAI, SHAARI CHEMAT and WILLIAM GARY/The Star

AS the glow of Chinese New Year festivities begins to wane, the lanterns of Chap Goh Meh light the way for one final celebration.

One might expect family and friends to gather for one last reunion dinner as they count down the festive season or look for love on the fifteenth day of Chinese New Year, also known as Chap Goh Meh.

In the heart of bustling Klang, the Teoh family steadfastly observes tradition.

Every Chap Goh Meh, the family members visit a temple to pray for blessings and also get together for a reunion dinner which includes enjoying tang yuan.

(From left) Kim Chuan, Derrick and other family members having dinner together during the last few days of the Chinese New Year season. They will have a final reunion meal on Chap Goh Meh.(From left) Kim Chuan, Derrick and other family members having dinner together during the last few days of the Chinese New Year season. They will have a final reunion meal on Chap Goh Meh.

Teoh Kim Chuan, 52, who is from Penang, said they have never missed a final reunion dinner.

“Over the years, only festive days like this enable us to meet all the family members,” Kim Chuan told StarMetro.He moved to Selangor for work 20 years ago but kept the traditions he practised in Penang.

“The festivities in Penang are held on a grand scale.

“However, nothing changes as my family still celebrates cultural events like Chap Goh Meh in Klang,” he added.

Kim Chuan believes it is crucial to pass this tradition to more young people so they can keep in touch with their roots.

Lee (fourth from left, in pink) and family in front of the God of Love at Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur.Lee (fourth from left, in pink) and family in front of the God of Love at Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur.

His son Derrick Teoh Den Forng, 22, is keen to uphold Chap Goh Meh traditions such as tossing mandarin oranges into the sea to find a desired partner.

“I heard that finding a significant other through this way can still work, and will give it a try,” said Derrick.

Another youth looking to give this ritual a shot this year is university student Tay Han Lin, 21, who returned from his studies in China for the Chinese New Year break.

He travelled to Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur to pray to the God of Love, hoping to get into a relationship this year.

Jess (left) and friend Chan Pui Yee, 23, visiting a temple. Jess says Chap Goh Meh is just an ordinary day for her family.Jess (left) and friend Chan Pui Yee, 23, visiting a temple. Jess says Chap Goh Meh is just an ordinary day for her family.

“Maybe I can find someone right for me as I have heard of love stories blossoming through the mandarin orange tossing event,” he said.

Tay is also looking forward to spending time with his family and wrapping up the festive season by tossing the last yee sang on Chap Goh Meh.

“My family will have a last reunion dinner at home to signify the end of Chinese New Year.

“We try our best to gather everyone because it will be hard to meet once Chinese New Year ends as everyone will be busy.

“Chap Goh Meh is a very important tradition which must be carried on,” he said.

Tuition tutor Selina Teo Kar Yong, 27, also gathers with her family for a last reunion dinner on Chap Goh Meh.

Li (right) and Thay at Kuan Yin temple where they hope to host more activities for Chap Goh Meh.Li (right) and Thay at Kuan Yin temple where they hope to host more activities for Chap Goh Meh.

“Every year, we make and eat tang yuan on this occasion as it symbolises unity and completeness in the family.

“It is important to meet and have a nice warm meal together as on other days, we are all too occupied,” said Teo.

She has a busy schedule but says if she has the time, she will give the mandarin orange tossing ritual a try.

“I hope to meet new people and make friends at the very least.

“If I can find a partner from the event, that would be most ideal,” she said with a shy laugh.

Teo says she will give the orange tossing ritual a try this year if she has the time.Teo says she will give the orange tossing ritual a try this year if she has the time.

Fading significance

However, the Chap Goh Meh spirit is gradually dwindling, with some of the older generation preferring to keep things simpler.

Lim Lee Chiew, 63, said her family used to celebrate Chap Goh Meh but not anymore.

“We are getting older, and celebrations like this take up a lot of time, especially cooking large meals for everybody.

“Having reunion dinners at restaurants is getting costly, so we just buy ready-made tang yuan to eat them at home as a simple symbolic gesture.”

One of her friends, Liew Yoke Yang, 70, said the older generation now preferred convenience over the hassle of preparations.

“The most we do now is pray at the temple for guidance and blessings from deities,” said Liew.For many young people, Chap Goh Meh is a regular day.

Lin says most of his friends and their families do not celebrate Chap Goh Meh.Lin says most of his friends and their families do not celebrate Chap Goh Meh.

University graduate Jess Lim Foon Zhi, 25, said she did not know the meaning behind the festival.

“It is just a normal day for my family, as we only celebrate on the first two days of Chinese New Year, where we get to unite with relatives,” she added.

STPM candidate Lin Jun Jie, 19, said most of his friends and their families do not celebrate Chap Goh Meh.

“My family is not big on festivities and most of the time, I am busy with my studies anyway so I skip it,” he said.

Preserving tradition

Housewife Lee Yoke San, 53, said her family used to celebrate Chap Goh Meh but as her children grew older, they stopped as many would not be home for the festivities.

However, she believes that the festive day should continue to be celebrated, especially among young people.

“The Chinese community should continue this tradition,” she said.

Goh: Every tradition left by our ancestors should be celebrated but without any burden.Goh: Every tradition left by our ancestors should be celebrated but without any burden.

Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Association (SKLHA) vice-president Li Ping and secretary general Thay Peng Kee agree that Chap Goh Meh holds great significance as it celebrates togetherness.

Li told StarMetro, “Chap Goh Meh is also known as the Yuan Xiao Festival, and according to a Hokkien saying, it is the time when people get together and eat good food before returning to work.”

Thay said Chap Goh Meh also celebrated the passing of bad circumstances.

“During the Han dynasty, ancient China was under the authoritarian rule of Empress Lu Zhi, the empress consort of Emperor Gaozu who was the first emperor of the Han Dynasty.

“After she was defeated, Emperor Wen of Han set the night of the 15th day of the first lunar month for all citizens to hold grand celebrations to mark the end of a terrible reign.

“This is also when Emperor Wen of Han permits girls and boys to meet, enabling them to find partners, which is how Chap Goh Meh became the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day.

“It is a joyous event that symbolises good luck, so it is important to celebrate it,” said Thay.

As an association that seeks to foster Chinese culture, Thay added that SKLHA was trying to come up with attractive ways to encourage young people to celebrate Chap Goh Meh by merging ancient traditions and modern approaches.

“We hope to host more activities at the redeveloped Kuan Yin temple for Chap Goh Meh, other than the usual riddle guessing competition,” he said.

The Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Huazhong) president Tan Sri Goh Tian Chuan said, “Every tradition and festival left by our ancestors should be celebrated but without any burden.”

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