Sunday February 24, 2013
Orange-tossing tradition originates from Hokkien folk in southern China
By WONG PEK MEI
PETALING JAYA: The tradition of throwing oranges during Chap Goh Meh originated from the Hokkiens in southern China.
Historically, Hokkien men would throw small drums into the water while the women would throw mandarin oranges.
Universiti Malaya Chinese Studies department lecturer Prof Dr Yam Kah Kean said both would scribble their names and where they are from on the items before tossing them into the water.
However, he said the tradition had evolved to only the women tossing mandarin oranges in Malaysia, which started in the northern parts of Malaysia especially Penang.
“The Hokkien saying is Tin Kam Keh Ho Ang (throw mandarin oranges in the water, you will marry a good husband),” he said.
Yam, who is also an ordained Taoist priest and the Taoist Association of Malaysia president, said the tossing tradition started as women were not allowed to go out in the past.
“They were only allowed to go out on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year.
“So, they would take the opportunity to meet their future spouses.
“It was considered a romantic day,” he said.
However, he said in the other parts of China in the past, people would focus on lighting lanterns, scribbling riddles under the lantern and whoever solved it would get a prize.
Yam said Chap Goh Meh was actually a lantern festival and should not be confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival.
“In the past, people would hang lanterns on the 15th day of the first lunar month.
“But it is not widely practised here although there are some Chinese associations who are trying to revive the tradition,” he said.
Yam added that in the religious aspect of the day, for the Taoist, it is the birthday of Tian Guan (Heavenly Official) deity.
“They will pray for prosperity and their wellbeing.
“They will also ask for repentance and confess any wrongdoings,” he said.