The state-level Chap Goh Meh celebration which fell on a weekend this year was made into a three-day lively affair at the Perak Kwan Yin Tong (Goddess of Mercy Cave Temple) from Friday, February 10 to Sunday, February 12.
Illuminated by the giant full moon, the Hokkien tradition also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day featured singing and dancing performances; fun fair; games and puzzles for children; guessing of one hundred lantern riddles; handicraft exhibition; lion and dragon dance; God of Prosperity distributing ang paos and fireworks.
“This annual festival is now in its 13th year. Young singles looking for partners especially love the tradition of tossing mandarin oranges inscribed with their name and phone number. We would receive multiple calls from them asking for details prior to the event. From our understanding, in the recent years, there are quite a number of couples who got married thanks to this festival, it’s indeed a blessing! Even those who are married will take part in this just for fun,” Ho You Meng, the chairman of the Goddess of Mercy Cave Temple told Ipoh Echo.
“Meanwhile, the participants also release auspicious water lanterns blessed by the nun to pray for a good year, harmonious family and bright future. The lantern will brighten their way and life and at the same time wash away all bad luck to make way for the good blessings,” Ho explained. He expected over 30,000 visitors for the family-oriented festival which lasted from 9am till midnight over the weekend. Of course, daytime activities leaned towards worship and chanting.
This year, a new section was set up specifically to promote bonding between parents and children featuring board games etc. On Sunday night, a lucky draw was held with ten pieces of gold medals worth RM3000 up for grabs. Couples or family members who took a photo on the lover’s bridge, posted to the temple’s Facebook page and donated RM10 for the building fund were eligible for the draw. The top three winners received a gold medal worth RM888, RM688 and RM388 respectively. According to Ho, the lover’s bridge made of iron signifies a permanent and stable relationship.
Dato’ Dr Mah Hang Soon, the Executive Councillor for Health, Public Transport, Non-Islamic Affairs, National Integration and New Villages visited the cave temple in the afternoon on the second day.
“The culture of tossing mandarin oranges into a body of water is only practised in Malaysia, not in China. Penang started the practice first, followed by other states. At this moment, only a few places in Malaysia have this practice such as Penang, Ipoh and Petaling Jaya,” Ho shared. At 9.30pm, everyone was seen getting ready into position with their nets or clutching their mandarin oranges for hurling. Some passionate males were spotted connecting two rods with a rope so that their nets would have a further reach or holding two fishing nets at once!
“The response here is getting better every year. We encourage the culture and the state government also gives us some allocations for the past few years and this year. Menteri Besar, Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir visited us back in 2011 and 2014,” he highlighted.
“We live just nearby and visit the temple all the time, not just on the 15th day of Chinese New Year,” one couple said to Ipoh Echo.