10 Facts About Chap Goh Mei Which Occurs Today (24 Feb 2024)


Advertisements
 

You have probably seen the pictures and videos of Taiwan’s renowned Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, where hundreds of people release glowing lanterns into the night sky. If you haven’t, just picture that enchanting scene from Disney’s Tangled. But beyond being an instagram-worthy event, there is much more to the Lantern Festival, common known as Chap Goh Mei in Singapore and Malaysia, that most don’t know about.

From what to eat to what it means, here are ten cool facts about Chap Goh Mei!

It Marks the end of Chinese New Year

Scheduled two weeks after Chinese New Year is celebrated, Chap Goh Mei symbolically marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations and the beginning of the spring season.

This means that it’s time to take all your New Year decorations down, and there is no need to give (or take) angbaos anymore.

Originated during the Han Dynasty

The roots of the Lantern Festival date back to the ancient Han Dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago.

This period coincides with the rise of Buddhism in China. Emperor Ming saw that Buddhist monks would light lanterns in temples to show respect to Buddha on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, and ordered everyone to do the same that evening.

Or is it emerged from a trick on a Jade Emperor?

Just like any legend, there are often more than one origin.

Legend says that the Lantern festival originated because an angry Jade Emperor wanted to burn down a village for killing his goose. Then, a wise spirit told the villagers to hang red lanterns across the town to trick the Jade Emperor into thinking the village was already on fire.

The emperor was fooled, the village survived, and the villagers continued the tradition of hanging red lanterns.

Yes, which is why it’s also known as the Lantern Festival.

Evolution of lanterns

Lanterns started out as fairly simple orbs. Over time, they have evolved to larger and more ornate lanterns, with certain designs even mimicking animals.

The lanterns are almost always red, a favourite colour among traditional Chinese culture for its association with good fortune.

And here’s the thing: remember what happened two days ago?

Release lanterns to release your burdens

Lighting up the lanterns symbolises “illuminating the future”.

People often release their lit up lanterns into the sky, which symbolises releasing the burdens of the past year and embracing the new year with good fortune.

But of course, this doesn’t work in Singapore. Just ask the 2,000 people who went to Sentosa on 21 Feb.


Advertisements
 

Guessing lantern riddles

One of the most popular activities of the Lantern Festival is guessing lantern riddles.

With topics ranging from classics and poetry, to general knowledge, people would crowd around and rack their brains over riddles pasted on the sides of the lanterns.

Those who successfully answer them are often rewarded with a small gift from the lantern’s owner.

Tangyuan symbolises family togetherness

You’ve one more excuse to eat tangyuan.

Chap Goh Mei is also a good time for families to dust off their tangyuan recipes for a nostalgic sweet treat.


Advertisements
 

Chinese people believe that the round shape of the balls, and the bowls in which they are served in, symbolise a close-knit family. Eating tangyuan would bring their families wholeness, togetherness, and happiness in the new year.

Dragon Dances drives away evil spirit

Another common practice is watching dragon and lion dances during the Lantern Festival.

It is believed that the appearance of the dragon can drive away evil spirits, and usher in good luck and blessings for people.

So if you dislike loud sounds, remember to bring your earphones out today.

A chance to find love?

Although this practice is no more, in Ancient Chinese times, the Lantern festival was one of the few fairs where unmarried women could leave their homes and roam the streets freely, searching for their prince charming against the backdrop of a romantic flower and lantern-decorated street.

It is for this reason that some people refer to Chap Goh Mei as the true Chinese “Valentine’s Day”.


Advertisements
 

Important cultural celebration

Today, the Lantern Festival carries greater significance on the global stage. Its stunning displays and cultural splendour draws millions of participants from around the globe yearly, offering an opportunity for countless individuals to immerse themselves in local Chinese traditions and heritage.

And tomorrow…the world goes back to normal, and angbaos are reserved, once again, for weddings.