Once every 19 years Chap Goh Meh coincides with Valentine's Day
The Star; Friday February 14, 2014

It is said that we celebrate Chap Goh Meh with Bubur Cha Cha because Cha Cha (pronounced che che in Hokkien) means "abundance"  or "prosperity". These are auspicious words synonymous with the Lunar New Year, which we always wish upon others for a blessed year. 

FEB 14 this year is a double celebration for lovebirds. The special day for lovebirds coincides with the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, which is also the last day of the celebration, better known as Chap Goh Meh in the Hokkien dialect.

Some of us refer to Chap Goh Meh (the 15th night) as the Chinese Valentine’s Day due to the local tradition of tossing mandarin oranges into the sea in search of love. The tradition, originated in Penang, was an occasion for unmarried women to leave the confines of their home to toss the oranges in the hope that the fruits would be picked up by eligible young men who would be their future spouse.

There is a new twist to the practice these days, with women writing their phone numbers and email addresses on the oranges before tossing them into spots such as Taman Jaya in Petaling Jaya and Taman Tasik Permaisuri in Cheras. These days, mandarin oranges are not tossed in a desperate search for love but merely for the fun of getting to know new friends and participating in this much-loved ritual.

It is not often that both love-filled occasions fall on the same day. The last time it took place was 19 years ago, in 1995. After some calculation, we found out that the “double celebration” occurred every 19 years, hence it had been celebrated in 1938, 1957 and 1976. Those who do not fancy the colourful tradition of tossing oranges, will probably have pre-booked a candlelight dinner at a restaurant.

A visit to several shopping centres in the Klang Valley showed hardly any hype despite the day drawing closer. Only a handful of gift shops were seen selling soft toys and cards while others continued with their Chinese New Year promotion, thus Valentine’s Day may not be on the mind of most shoppers. “It is so close to Chinese New Year, we didn’t even realise it until our friends started talking about it,” said Eelaine Tan, who was with her 23-year-old boyfriend Allen Goh.Elaine said they would most likely spend the day with their family as it was the last day of the Chinese New Year. Several florists also reported a drop in orders as supply for fresh flowers had reduced, following uncertain weather conditions.

“Valentine’s Day is certainly slower this year but we do hope business will pick up at the final hour when couples scramble to look for flowers,” said florist Ellen Loke.Loke, who is brand director for Lavieflo International, said they were not affected by the shortage as the company sold only preserved flowers imported from China.

“We are not selling plastic flowers, they are fresh flowers that have undergone a short preservation process,” said Loke, adding that the flowers could last up to three years or more with proper care. The outlet also made special stalks for Valentine’s Day priced at RM68 for a stalk, and RM178 for three stalks in a small vase. Bouquets were going at RM168 for half a dozen to RM528 for a set of 24 roses. Their roses come in pink, red, yellow, purple, white, peach, blue and black. She also shared a chart to guide her customers on how many roses to purchase and what each number meant. For instance, three roses mean “I love you” while 108 and 999 roses meant “marry me” and “eternal love” respectively.Many are planning to go the unconventional way in marking the occasion, either by cooking at home or throwing a house party.Several cake shops have jumped on the bandwagon to sell Valentine’s Day-themed cakes to “sweeten” the day further.

At Wondermilk in Damansara Uptown, several of their widely sold cupcakes have been decorated with hearts and the word “love” written on it.Business also picked up for The Accidental Bakers who took a step further by creating cupcakes with flavours inspired by love. “People are more conscious of what they’re eating these days, so we came up with mini bite-sized cupcakes,” said owner Ee-Lyn Tan. She added that her team was offering mini red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and mocha cupcakes with a chocolate fudge filling and coffee buttercream packaged in a special box. “Our home-made cupcakes are beautifully packed and topped with a handmade flower,” said Ee-Lyn, adding that response had been overwhelming and they had stopped accepting orders.

A phone accessories shop in Sungei Wang Plaza made mobile phone covers in red and pink colours accented with diamond studs, also in red and pink.“Nowadays, couples do not want to spend much as they prefer to keep their hard-earned money for more important occasions like birthdays,” said Sam Lee, whose wife made such covers to give couples a wider choice to choose from.

Whether one tosses mandarin oranges for Chap Goh Meh or have a quiet dinner on Valentine’s Day, treasure this special day as the next time both celebrations fall on the same day will be in 2033.

- The Star article here

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