Have you heard of The Lantern Festival? The festival is popular among Chinese descent in Malaysia and is known as Chap Goh Meh. Although it is a festive celebration, the day is not considered a public holiday. Nevertheless, it is still a special occasion on the 15th night of the Chinese New Year. Do you know that this day is also described as Chinese Valentine’s Day?
During this day, the family will gather and join a meal together. As the name of the festival, you will see many lanterns hanging at homes and temples, with a highly anticipated lantern-making competition. Aside from that, you will witness cultural performances like lion dances, firecrackers, and Chingay (flag-balancing). Furthermore, young women will join the activity of throwing mandarins into the sea, to find a life partner. That is why it is also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day.
But..why is the festival celebrated in the first place?
1) Red lanterns and firecrackers
- One of the stories about the festival’s origin is the story of an emperor, Jade Emperor.
- The emperor is mad that some villagers killed his crane. He sends his people to destroy the village for their doings on the 15th of the lunar year.
- The emperor’s daughter decides to tell the villagers about her father’s plan. Luckily, a wise man suggests that everyone in the village hang red lanterns, and set bonfires on the streets. Additionally, firecrackers are also set on the fourteenth, fifteen, and sixteenth of lunar days. (To make the village looks like it is ablaze)
- When the emperor’s people come to the village, they find out that the village is destroyed.
- Starting that day, on the fifteenth of the lunar day, they celebrate the day with red lanterns and firecrackers.
- During this festival, many activities are being played.
- In Taoism, they believe that the day is the Taoist’s god’s birthday. The god, Tianguan, loves entertainment, which becomes the reason why there are many activities and entertainment on this day.
3) Yuanxiou and Tangyuan
- Yuanxiao and Tangyuan are the two foods popular during The Lantern Festival.
- Legend states that a maid, Yuan-Xiao, who works in a palace during the Han dynasty becomes homesick. She decides to take her own life.
- However, an emperor’s advisor, Dongfang Shuo, promises her that he will reunite her with her family. He spreads a prediction that there will be a calamitous fire on the fifteenth lunar day.
- He tells everyone that the God of Fire would send a fairy in red riding a black horse to burn down the city. Everyone who sees the fairy must ask for her mercy.
- The emperor is also scared that he comes to Shuo for advice. He tells the emperor that the God of Fire likes to eat tangyuan, and Yuan-Xiau is talented in making the food.
- Thus, the emperor asks Yuan-Xiau to be in charge of the preparation. Not only that, but everyone also has to prepare sweet dumplings to worship the god.
- Aside from that, every house should also hang red lanterns and light firecrackers to trick the God of Fire. The god will think that the place is ablaze.
- While everyone is busy preparing, Yuan Xiau goes to see her family.
- Looking that there is no harm to the village, the emperor decrees that the same thing should be done every year.
4) The throwing of Mandarins
- In ancient times, women who are not married are not allowed to step out of their houses. Only on the Chap Goh Meh, they can go out and bring a lantern to deceive the God of Fire.
- Women will also take the chance to dress their best, to find a good partner. Meanwhile, the men will gather too in hopes of the same thing.
- If the men find someone to their liking, they will hire a matchmaker on their behalf to ask the women for their hand in marriage.
- The activity of throwing mandarins into the sea is for them to get a good husband.
Do you know any other stories relating to Chap Goh Meh?