Dating back to more than 2,000 years ago, Chap Goh Mei draws women to bodies of water to throw mandarin oranges and carry fancy lanterns with written riddles in hopes of finding their one true love.
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.
Master Kenny Hoo of Good Feng Shui Geomantic Research said being the day of the first full moon of the Lunar calendar, it creates the perfect romantic setting for singles to gather at parks and lakes to mingle, and hopefully fall in love.
“Although it may have been necessary before, providing the only chance to meet your soul mate, the practise of throwing oranges and carrying lanterns is still very much alive today, especially in hotspots such as the Taman Jaya lake in Petaling Jaya, rivers in Klang and popular areas in Penang.”
However, the practice of getting together during this day is not limited to young singles, Hoo explained.
“Anyone, young and old, married and single, can use this occasion to write good wishes on oranges and throw it as high up and as far as possible into bodies of water.
“The 15th day is the peak of the Chinese New Year celebrations as after this everyone will have to get back to their day-to-day life. So it’s a good time to profess hopes and wishes for the rest of the year.”
Penangite Michelle Hsu, 38, is single but has never been a believer of the tradition.
“Being in the engineering line, I’m way too practical for all that. Plus, I would be afraid to randomly reveal my phone number in case some whacko gets a hold of it.”
Although 29-year-old Klang girl, who only wanted to be known as Nur, is not Chinese, she still joins in the fun with her ex-classmates every year.
“I’m a hopeless romantic and practise this every year, but it’s more about an annual get-together with friends. But instead of leaving our phone number, we put our social media accounts on the oranges,” she said.
“According to the tradition, scholars used to write riddles on lanterns, where the crowd would try to solve the riddles with a potential gift to be won. In the context of finding love, we are looking for someone compatible who understands us. So to a certain extent, the ‘riddles’ still exist.
“Although throwing oranges into bodies of water and writing riddles on lanterns might be fun, it might not be the most effective way to find love,” said Lim.
However, there are still lessons that hold true from the ancient Chinese Valentine’s Day traditions.
“For example, it’s said that during Han Dynasty in China, one of the traditional customs involves women showing their skills; carving exotic flowers, animals, and unusual birds, usually on a melon skin. Today, the way to make a good impression when you meet someone is to portray the best version of yourself.
“After all, finding love is not just about meeting the right one, it’s also about being the right one and choosing the right one.”
We do see a surge of inquiries nearing Valentine’s Day and Chap Goh Mei, because these are the times when people are reminded to take a proactive action to find love, Lim added.
“Even though there might be one or two lucky maidens or young men who really end up finding the right one by throwing oranges into the lake, or writing riddles on lanterns, those are exceptions and not the norm. So do not get your hopes up too high!”