Tossing mandarin oranges: From ancient custom to ‘fun’ activity

Accounting student Chin (left) and communications student Rebecca Ng (right) prepare to toss mandarin oranges into the Taman Jaya lake during MBPJ's Chap Goh Meh celebration in Petaling Jaya March 2, 2018. — Pictures by Shafwan Zaidon
Accounting student Chin (left) and communications student Rebecca Ng (right) prepare to toss mandarin oranges into the Taman Jaya lake during MBPJ's Chap Goh Meh celebration in Petaling Jaya March 2, 2018. — Pictures by Shafwan Zaidon

PETALING JAYA, March 3 — A once ancient custom is now a light-hearted activity as many youths are taking part in the practice of throwing mandarin oranges into the water during this year’s Chap Goh Meh festival.

To mark the 15th and final day of the Chinese New Year, the Petaling Jaya City Council held a festival yesterday evening at Tasik Taman Jaya, which drew a crowd of around 300 people.

For communications student Rebecca Ng, 23, this was her first time throwing mandarin oranges into the lake.

“It is all good fun. I do not really believe it but I would say it is extra effort on my part in getting a partner,” she told the Malay Mail.

Accounting student Chin carefully writes her name and contact information on a mandarin orange before tossing it into the Taman Jaya lake in Petaling Jaya March 2, 2018.
Accounting student Chin carefully writes her name and contact information on a mandarin orange before tossing it into the Taman Jaya lake in Petaling Jaya March 2, 2018.

The custom originated in China’s southern Fujian province, where young unmarried women would toss oranges into rivers in hopes of finding a suitable spouse. Men traditionally threw other items including apples or small drums.

Administrative worker Kelly Lee, 26, said this is her fourth time tossing mandarin oranges.

“I write my WeChat ID on the orange, but up until now no one has reached out to me.

“It is a quaint practice, but I do not know if anyone still believes they can find their soulmate by doing so,” she said laughing.

Chef Yong Jun Long, 25, and his girlfriend, administrative officer Jacqueline Lim, 26, say they have never tried it out until now.

“I certainly did not meet my girlfriend by catching her tossed mandarin orange. It is just that I have heard of the practice from my elders, so what harm can come from doing it?” he said.

The crowd at MBPJ's Chap Goh Meh's celebration in Petaling Jaya, March 2, 2018.
The crowd at MBPJ's Chap Goh Meh's celebration in Petaling Jaya, March 2, 2018.

Jacqueline agreed, saying no one she knows of takes the practice seriously.

“It may have been a serious custom for our ancestors back then, but now many simply do it for giggles,” she said.

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