For some unknown reason, I’m feeling rather tired and feel like nesting at home, although it’s chap goh meh today. Anyway, tired or not, I’m going to write a little bit about Chap Goh Meh (Chinese: 十五暝; pinyin: Shíwǔmíng; literally “the fifteen night” in Fujian dialect), since I still feel rather guilty about not posting anything on the Lunar New Year.
What we call Chap Goh Meh around here is actually the celebrated day of Lantern Festival and the 15th day of Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year). Today marks the first full moon after the Spring Festival and of the New Year, also known as yuán xiāo jié (元宵节), meaning “first night of the full moon”. Usually, if it’s not cloudy, the full moon looks especially bright and beautiful today. I think it’s the cheerful atmosphere that makes people feel that things are more beautiful than usual.
Yuan Xiao Jie is also celebrated by individuals seeking for a love partner, a different version of Valentine’s Day. Traditionally, single women would write their contact number on mandarin oranges and throw it in a river or a lake while single men would collect them and eat the oranges. The taste is an indication of their possible love: sweet represents a good fate while sour represents a bad fate. It’s kinda ridiculous, but interesting.
This day marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.
During this festival lanterns are displayed, at times as lantern fairs, and children are carrying lanterns to temples. The festival is associated with guiding lost and wayward evil spirits home, while celebrating and cultivating positive relationship between people, families, nature and the higher beings as they are believed to be responsible for bringing and returning the light each year.
Another legend associates the Lantern Festival with Taoism. Tian Guan is the Taoist ‘Ruler of Heaven’ and the god responsible for good fortune, bestowing wealth and good luck. His birthday falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month. It is said that Tian Guan likes all types of entertainment, so followers prepare various kinds of activities during which they pray for good fortune.
Traditionally on this day, another family reunion dinner is held with lanterns and oranges being a large part of the celebrations. It is customary to eat special sweet dumplings called tāngyuán (simplified Chinese: 汤圆)resembling the shape of the full moon. These round balls are made of glutinous rice flour stuffed with sugar fillings, symbolizing reunion. My favourite filling is sesame paste.
Our household usually just makes them unstuffed and eat them with sweet ginger syrup/soup, like this picture below.
However, in our household, tangyuan is only made on winter solstice (Dec 22) for Dongzhi festival. I’ve been craving for something gingery and sweet since yesterday, but I’m too lazy to make it. So, yesterday I bought freshly-made douhua instead. Douhua is healthier anyway. I liked it so much I ate 2 bowls yesterday and bought another 3 bowls today .
We received a gift hamper from HSBC on the eve of Chinese New Year. It consists of 4 tins of Twinings tea and 2 porcelain mugs with spoons & lids. If you look closely, the mugs’ handles are removable and they are made from wood. So, thank you HSBC 🙂