Merry finale of festivities

GEORGE TOWN: A spectacle to behold with music playing and local traditions in full swing, the grand closing of the Chinese New Year celebrations here saw the heritage enclave abuzz with revelry.

Thousands of people revelled in an array of activities at the Esplanade while enjoying the view of a giant dragon sculpture forming a lit-up archway.

The Chap Goh Meh (a Hokkien term for what might be best translated as “the ending on the 15th”) celebrations here was a special way to end the festivities.

The extra luminous full moon dominated the typically cloudless night sky during this dry season for this state-level celebration.

Among featured programmes were arts and crafts activities, multicultural drums, a Chinese orchestra, acrobatic lion dance on stilts, live bands and fire juggling shows.

A dizzying variety of local cuisine was also available at the food stalls.Singing Rasa Sayang to entertain the crowd, the ladies of the Penang Peranakan Baba Nyonya Association turned up in full traditional garb on a float.

Its president Lillian Tong led the Dondang Sayang cultural performance entourage, with a 100-strong Baba and Nyonya troupe who made their way to the celebration following a float procession from the State Chinese Penang Association at Perak Road.

The association has been actively promoting Peranakan culture with the Dondang Sayang procession on every Chap Goh Meh day each year.

The highlight of Chap Goh Meh – also dubbed the Chinese Valentine’s Day – is the iconic, beloved tradition of tossing mandarin orange by single ladies hoping to find love.

But times have changed and many women, including married ones, this year were gleefully tossing oranges, with wishes for good health and prosperity.Rhythmic gymnastics coach Koay Chia Li, 26, said that while she has a boyfriend, she was going to toss an orange for fun.“(In previous years), I was busy working and did not have time to participate in the Chap Goh Meh celebrations.

“This year, I managed to get time off and will stay here till the end,” she said.Friends Khadija Abasheikh, 26, and Lauren Kwan, 25, who are from the United Kingdom, were pleasantly surprised by the festivities and took part in tossing the oranges.

“We were not aware of the event and just stumbled upon the crowd.

“We are both single … so it is a novelty (for us).

“We were told to write our names and numbers on the oranges,” said Kwan, an optometrist.Another happy celebrant was Stephanie Yeoh, 55, who cooks the Nyonya delicacy pengat based on her grandmother’s recipe for Chap Goh Meh every year.She described it as being similar to bubur cha-cha but less sweet.

“I only make it during Chap Goh Meh,” she said.

Yeoh added that she used all types of potatoes except for the purple ones, which she said would discolour the coconut milk for the dish.“Then I add bananas, specifically pisang raja.

“The original pengat has thnee kuih (nian gao or kuih bakul) but people prefer tapioca jelly,” she said.Not far from the Esplanade, another procession of floats – the Tua Pek Kong Hneoh – was held last night after a two-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Poh Hock Seah temple honorary secretary Lim Hooi Kooi said the grand procession for Chap Goh Meh is traditionally held once every 12 years.

It starts at the temple in Armenian Street and makes its way on a 10km journey around the heritage enclave, including Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Penang Road, Burmah Road, Macalister Road, Gudwara Road, Sandilands Street, Beach Street and back to Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling before returning to the temple.

Chap Goh Meh is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month according to the lunar calendar, and is an important festival signifying the end of the new year celebration.