THE Penang government is thankful that the double celebration of Thaipusam and Chap Goh Meh was held smoothly despite the novel coronavirus scare, says Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.
He said the state government and organisers had earlier considered many times whether to hold these two mass celebrations or not.
“As you all know, the coronavirus outbreak has affected some countries in the world including Malaysia which has several cases,” Chow said in his speech at the Penang Celebrates Chap Goh Meh 2020 at the Esplanade field tonight.
Chow said that he had just witnessed the Thaipusam celebration at the Waterfall Hilltop Temple.
“Thousands of Hindu devotees and numerous tourists flocked to the place.
“I’m thankful the event was carried out safely and successfully.”
Chow also thanked all parties, whether they were from government agencies, private, corporate or organisations, for their cooperation in the making the Chap Goh Meh event a reality.
Most of all, he expressed his thanks to the people for spending their time to join in the celebration.
Also present were state Tourism Development, Arts, Culture and Heritage (PETACH) Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin, Batu Lancang assemblyman Ong Ah Teong, Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce president Datuk Seri Hong Yeam Wah and consulate general representatives.
Yeoh said they had invited dance troupes from Lanzhou China and Shandong Qingdao to perform at the celebration but due to the coronavirus outbreak in China, they were not able to make it.
“PETACH had originally wanted to promote tourism between Penang and China through cultural performances but has to postpone it,” Yeoh said.
“We have set up a ‘Tree of Hope’ at the celebration site for the people to write words of encouragement for the frontline workers and patients.”
Earlier, Chow was joined by several VIPs in the traditional mandarin orange tossing event.
This year, however, they did not throw the oranges into the sea from the Esplanade promenade as its seawall is being rebuilt.
Instead, they threw the fruit into a makeshift pool, set up beside the City Hall.
Chap Goh Meh, also known as the 15th and last day of the Lunar New Year, is synonymous with the tossing of mandarin oranges. It is also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day.
Single women would throw oranges into the sea or river in the hope of finding prospective suitors.
Young men in boats would scoop up the oranges and the boat with the most oranges would win the competition.
But in modern times, the tradition is kept alive with the girls writing their names and phone numbers on the oranges before tossing them into the waters.
It is also treated as a fun event as friends and family members also take part in the orange-throwing event.
Among the tourists who threw the oranges were two Americans – Francesca Krihely, 31, and Rachel Kahtan, 24, from New York City.
They, however, were not looking for their ‘Mr Right’ as both have boyfriends.
Krihely and Kahtan wrote the names of their boyfriends – Tim Hagamen and Benjamin Schindel – respectively on an orange and also included their Instagram account names on it.
“This is a wonderful event. Unfortunately, we did not get the chance to throw the orange into the sea. We may come back next year,” Krihely said.
Visitors were also given the chance to take part in the orange throwing activity digitally on a huge screen set up beside the City Hall.
Apart from that, they were entertained by several cultural dances and performances on the main stage.
Some of them also walked away with lucky prizes, with Poh Kong Jewellers sponsoring RM30,000 worth of items.
The crowd was also treated to a dazzling fireworks display, thanks to the sponsorship by the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
This was followed by a captivating lion dance that drew thunderous applause from the spectators.
Story by K.H. Ong
Pix by Chan Kok Kuan
Video by Law Suun Ting