The Chap Goh Meh is celebrated on the 15th day of the year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. This is also known as the Chinese Valentine’s day and as a result holds special significance for people who wish to find their soul mates. This festival is celebrated in Penang with great excitement and the legend behind the tale is retold many times, especially to those who are new to the city. As the legend goes, a young man who was lonely and often wished to find his soul mate saw a woman who caught his attention and captured his heart as soon as his glance landed on her.
Unable to tear his eyes away from her but afraid to lose her forever, he tore his glance away and managed to note the number of her car with the hopes of meeting her and expressing his love for her in person. However, tradition and values forced him to take an alternate route and when he found out the person to whom the car belonged, he sent his mother with a matchmaker to the girl’s home in order to arrange their match. As fate would have it, the lovely woman our story’s hero fell in love with was actually not the daughter of the house but a niece who was there for a visit.
The marriage was arranged and the man was beside himself with joy and disbelief to have not only found the woman he truly believed to be his soul mate but to actually get to marry her and spend all his life with. On the day of the wedding, when he came face to face with his bride, the misfortune and the joke fate had played with him dawned on him when he realized that the woman he loved stood in the crowd while her heavy and plain-featured cousin stood in a bride’s dress in front of him.
The term Chap Goh Meh means the night of the 15th day in the Chinese lunar calendar. It is celebrated by offering prayers and wishes for the year that has ended. The occasion is celebrated by decorating houses with colorful lights and the entire city looks as beautiful as a new bride, although not the one the hero of our story was married to. Lanterns are hung in balconies as a symbol of light to celebrate this occasion.
This year, the Chap Goh Meh Festival will be celebrated on the 5th of March, at Esplanade, Georgetown. There will be great food, street entertainment and a national holiday to celebrate the New Year. Families get together to celebrate the festival together while single people visit street festivals with the hope of meeting their soul mates on the Chinese Valentine’s Day.
Single men and women toss oranges into the ocean as a good omen that will enable them to find true love. Loud and merry music fills the air that rings with laughter of people enjoying one of the many beautiful occasions that are celebrated in Penang every year.