GEORGE TOWN: Centuries ago, when maidens in China could not freely socialise, Chap Goh Meh – the 15th and last day of Chinese New Year (CNY) festivities – was the only evening when they could step out of their homes without being closely chaperoned.
As they went out, dressed in their Sunday best, to temples to pray for a blessed future, young men would be out on the streets too – because this was about the only time of the year when they could openly admire the lasses of their villages.
If a young lady stole their heart at first sight, a young man would then seek the services of a matchmaker to make the proper enquiries and hopefully, introductions.
That is how Chap Goh Meh became to be known as the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day, while in Penang and other parts of Malaysia, another tradition was added to it.
Sometime in the 19th century, single Chinese ladies went out in groups to the seaside on Chap Goh Meh and tossed out mandarin oranges which, just like throwing coins into a well, would hopefully bring them good luck in the form of the man of their dreams.
This tradition has stuck around to this day and for Jess Ng, 26, and her three gal pals, the new in-thing for them is to do it by themselves instead of being stuck in a crowd.
“I never threw mandarins for Chap Goh Meh before because I didn’t like the traffic jams and the large crowd of people.
“This year, we decided that since this is our first time celebrating Chinese New Year together since the Covid-19 pandemic, we should try this mandarin-throwing,” Ng said with a laugh.
Ng, Star Khor, 22, Rachel Lee, 20, and Kelly Chung, 28, are all hairdressers who had their fair share of troubles during the pandemic, as hair salons were among the last types of businesses to be allowed to resume normal operations.
Ng said she did not currently have a boyfriend nor did she believe that throwing mandarins into the sea would really help her find one.
“But I wanted to do it just to celebrate the last day of CNY. I pray that the Year of the Rabbit would be a happy one for the world. Everyone has been through a lot and I hope this year, we will all find blessings,” she said.
Unlike Ng, Lee went ahead and scribbled her phone number with a permanent marker on her mandarins before throwing them.
“I wouldn’t know what to do if someone actually calls me and say they found my mandarin,” Lee laughed.