Finding love tonight? Chap Goh Meh, then and now

CHAP Goh Meh is today but many youths are left uninformed about the festival's origins and how the well-known festivities came to surface in their family.

Passed down through generations, little do people know of the origins and background of the event celebrated by the Chinese today.

Dating back to more than 2,000 years ago, Chap Goh Meh derives from the southern Hokkien dialect "chap goh" which means "fifteen" and "meh" translates into "night."

The original definition for Chap Goh Meh is also different in China and Malaysia.

In China, the celebration is known as Yuan Xiao Jie, which is the night of the first month in the lunar calendar.

According to ancient legend, women had restricted freedom to roam the streets, thus on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, women took this opportunity to head out to the streets and temples in the hopes of meeting people and making new friends.

In modern society, Chap Goh Meh is more well-known as a festivity for families to celebrate with one another while praying to ancestors in thanksgiving.

Chap Goh Meh is also a time where tang yuen (glutinous rice balls in concentrated syrup) is eaten during family dinners.

"This is a symbolic dessert for the Chinese as it represents reunion, family and good ties," said Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Association president Thay Peng Kee.

However, the most famous activity associated with the festival is, of course, the throwing of mandarin oranges, usually into a body of water.

"Young women participate in this activity as a way of proclaiming love to someone they admire or ask for blessings to find themselves a good partner. It is similar to the use of 'love locks' in Europe," said Thay.

Asked about the practice of men tossing bananas into the sea, Thay said with a laugh, "The practice (of men throwing bananas) is a recent and very modern development."

He also emphasised that Chap Goh Meh should not be mistaken for a religious activity, and that it was a cultural tradition that varied from family to family.

Related: 6,000 devotees turn up at Loyang temple to celebrate Chap Goh Mei