Chap Goh Meh (CGM) is the last day of the Chinese New Year based on the lunar calendar. CGM is a Hokkien dialect meaning “ The 15th night”, a rather non-imaginative description but the celebration in Penang is nothing if not imaginative and colourful.
CGM is also known as Yuán xiāo jié ( 元宵节) in Mandarin. The day is marked with eating tangyuan (汤圆), a sweet dessert soup with coloured springy rice balls. Typically the women-folk and children will be busy rolling small round rice balls from glutinous rice flour on the day before. The flour is dyed with food colourings or natural colours extracted from pandan leaves (green), red dragon fruits (red) and pumpkin (yellow) to form the balls of different colours. On the morning of CGM, the rice balls are cooked briefly in sweetened boiling water with lots of ginger and pandan leaves for a tentalizing treat. Rolling and eating the tangyuan symbolizes family togetherness and harmony.
As on every 15th night of the Chinese lunar calendar, CGM is a full moon night. In Chinese folk tradition, it is a day where young ladies of marrying age venture out to flower markets to be seen by prospective men seeking life partners. In recent years, CGM is increasingly being promoted as the Chinese equivalent to Valentine’s Day. On that night, men and women of marrying age would venture to Penang’s Esplanade where the ladies are encouraged to write their contact information on mandarin oranges and throw them into the sea to be scooped up by men waiting in boats.
On CGM night, the community leaders of Baba Nyonya (descendents of Chinese-Malay) would dress in their best Nyonya finery to promote their culture and introduce their traditional dances to the public. If you are invited to dance with them, please do so. You might learn a few unique dance moves for all you know.
Chop Goh Meh ends with a bang with a colourful display of fireworks, let off at the waterfront of the Esplanade. The fireworks bring a grand close to the Chinese New Year celebrations and leaves the spectators with recharged energy to tango with whatever the new year may bring.