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The Scene Why is Lantern Festival Celebrated in February? 3 Things To Know About Chap Goh Mei

Why is Lantern Festival Celebrated in February? 3 Things To Know About Chap Goh Mei

A woman in a traditional outfit poses for pictures in a shop decorated for the Chinese Lunar New Year in Bangkok on January 24, 2020. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP)
Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP
By Lainey Loh
By Lainey Loh
February 26, 2021
While Lantern Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival are used interchangeably by Singaporeans; did you know that in parts of the world, the Chinese also recognise the 15th and last day of Chinese New Year as Yuan Xiao Jie (Lantern Festival)?

Today, the Chinese will observe Chap Goh Mei (or Chap Goh Meh), a festival that’s celebrated just as heartily as Chinese New Year. While this year’s event will be a little subdued, much like Chinese New Year celebrations, owing to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Chinese community is still enthusiastic about upholding its age-old traditions with much joy and festivity.

Let's take a look at the origins of Chap Goh Mei and the different ways it's celebrated.

(Related: Chinese New Year 2021: An Expert's Astrology Tips for the Year of the Ox)

1/3 What it is

Chap Goh Mei literally means the 15th night of Chinese New Year in Hokkien, a dialect originating from Southeastern China. However, it’s not only celebrated by the Hokkiens.

In some parts of the world, such as China, Chap Goh Mei is also recognised as Yuan Xiao Jie (Lantern Festival). In China and other Asian countries that observe this festival, the day signifies the end of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebrations.

(Related: #Tatlergram: How Our Society Friends Celebrated Chinese New Year 2021)

2/3 Its origins

Legend has it that the day revolves around the Jade Emperor, the central figure of Chinese folk religion. After his favourite pet crane was killed by a few villagers, the Emperor had planned to destroy the village on the 15th day of the lunar year. Upon hearing this, one of his favourite daughters secretly descended to the mortal world to warn the villagers about the impending disaster. 

To escape his wrath, the villagers hung red lanterns and set off firecrackers to make it look like their homes were already on fire so the Emperor wouldn’t raze the village to the ground. Satisfied, the Emperor left the village untouched and from then on, people celebrated the 15th day of the lunar year with lanterns and firecrackers.

3/3 A modern twist

While major activities for people in China include eating tang yuan (glutinous rice balls) over a grand meal, solving riddles written on beautiful lanterns, and visiting temples to pray for their family for the coming year, Chap Goh Mei in Malaysia and Singapore is celebrated with a modern twist.

(Related: Chinese New Year 2021: Covid-19 Restrictions to Take Note of in Singapore)

Not only is Chap Goh Mei the last day that families can toss yusheng together, a symbol of all things auspicious, it’s also often considered the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day. On this night, young unmarried ladies throw Mandarin oranges marked with their names and telephone numbers into lakes and rivers in hopes of finding love, and optimistic men will be tasked to scoop them up and make contact. Think of it as the Tinder of yesteryear.

(Related: Chinese New Year 2021: The Best Red Packets This Year of the Ox)

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The Scene Chinese New Year Lunar New Year Chap Goh Mei Chap Goh Meh Chinese Valentine's Day Lantern Festival

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