A group photo. Pictured are Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Professor Dr. Sim Kui Hian (fourth left), Abdul Karim (seventh left) and Wee (eighth left). Photos: Priscilla Tawie and Mohd Alif Noni
The Chap Goh Mei gathering at the India Street Pedestrian Mall, Kuching with the Early Mercers mural in the background.
Multi-cultural dance performance.
Lion dance performance.

While Chinese New Year sees its closing on February 19 with an auspicious celebration of Chap Goh Mei, Kuching North City Hall (DBKU) brought back the night one last time this year with a prosperous celebration held at the India Street Pedestrian Mall, Kuching. The celebration held on February 20 was witnessed by people from different walks of life, young and old, and of different cultural background.

With its theme, ‘A celebration of Prosperity and Diversity’, it was appropriate as you could see the Malays, the Dayaks, the Indians and many others come together to watch the Chap Goh Mei celebration alongside Chinese at the venue. All eyes were captivated during the night as they were mesmerised by the culture of another, although the same could be said for all the different festivities in Malaysia.

There were performances such as the lion and dragon dance, 24 Season Drums, Chinese Traditional Orchestra, Primary School Multicultural Performances that included a mask changing act, and ethnic group performances. Aside from that, there were also firecrackers, mandarin orange-throwing ceremony and lantern displays to commemorate the festivity. During the performances even, oranges were handed out to be shared amongst the audiences as it symbolises good luck and prosperity for the Chinese New Year.

24 seasons drum performance.
Abdul Karim looking at the lanterns that went on display during the event on February 20.
Throwing of oranges by the guests of honour at the pond situated in India Street Pedestrian Mall, Kuching.

To grace the event, the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth, and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim was also present. As he arrived at the venue, he was greeted by troupes of lion and dragon dance, alongside children in various cultural outfits. The atmosphere showed an exuberant feeling, as the curious audiences continues to watch as he arrived.

Karim also launched the augmented reality ‘History on Wall Series’ in conjunction with the Old Kuching Heritage Trail at the Early Mercers mural in India Street, Kuching. The signing was among the events’ highlights during the Chap Goh Mei celebration.

It was truly a night of diversity as shared in DBKU Commissioner Dato Wee Hong Seng’s speech, “Sarawak Multi Culturalism is similar to that of many Chinese philosophies such as ‘Harmony and Differences’, ‘Shared Prosperity’, ‘Love and Benefits for all’. The races in Sarawak live harmoniously and have mutual respect for each other even with the differences of races and religions”.

The India Street Pedestrian Mall Committee Chairman also added that in Sarawak, it has been inculcated throughout the years that any celebrations will be celebrated by all races in the Old Heritage area”. This is a uniquely Sarawakian way and this racial harmony has been facilitated and promoted by the very inclusive Sarawak State Government all these years”, said Wee.

The Chap Goh Mei

Chap Goh Mei is a festive date marked by many Chinese. It is also known as the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day. Chap Goh Mei itself means the 15th night of Chinese New Year in the Hokkien dialect, which also marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebration.

The day is celebrated similarly to the day before Chinese New Year is celebrated — with much joy and festivity. During Chap Goh Mei, families gather over a grand meal which includes Yuan Xiao (glutinous rice balls) and homes maintain their beautifully lit red lanterns from the first day for the last time in the year.

During midnight, or on the day of Chap Goh Mei, Chinese flock the temple to offer prayers to the God of Prosperity to bless their family with good fortune for the coming year.

Apart from that, another ritual that is usually practised on Chap Goh Mei would be the orange throwing. Each year, lakes and ponds see floating oranges inked with phone numbers of its women throwers, while single men wait to pick up random oranges afloat hoping to meet the love of their love through this fateful ritual.

A group photo. Pictured are Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Professor Dr. Sim Kui Hian (fourth left), Abdul Karim (seventh left) and Wee (eighth left). Photos: Priscilla Tawie and Mohd Alif Noni
‘Dua tao’, or Big Head characters awaiting the guest of honour.