The Kuching Teochew Association in conjunction with its 150th Anniversary this year is celebrating the “Yuan Xiao Jie” or otherwise known as “Chap Ngo Mei” or the “15th Night” which is also known as the Lantern Festival. The Teochew style of celebrating the “Yuan Xiao Jie” is a tradition that goes back a very long time ago and it is part of the Teochew culture. The event was celebrated on two consecutive days, that is on the 14th and 15th of February, 2014.
The Year 2014 is the Year of the Wooden Horse and it signifies strength and success. While the Kuching Teochew Association is celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year, the “Yuan Xiao Jie” coincides with “Valentine’s Day” which is on the 14th February, 2014 and all these three events mark an important auspicious year for the Kuching Teochew Association. “Yuan Xiao Jie” is also known as the Chinese Valentine's Day when oranges are thrown into the river to make romantic wishes.
The Kuching Teochew Association has for over the last century been celebrating “Yuan Xiao Jie” in a very unique style and especially this year, the short stretch of Carpenter street was closed between the General Post Office and the junction of China Street to enable very special stalls to be set up to sell all Teochew gastronomic cuisines such as the “Tuan Yuan” or the black sesame filled glutinous rice ball, Oyster Omelet, duck rice, “Ngo Bee Tng”, and many other nice Teochew delicacies. Tables and chairs were available at the “Yang Chun Tai” opposite the Temple for people to enjoy the delicacies at the spot. The stalls were opened between 7:00pm to 10:00pm on the 14th and 15th February.
The street was filled with traditional “Yuan Xiao Jie” pomp, lion and Dragon dance, lanterns, music and “Valentine goods” such as chocolates, flowers, cards, and gifts for lovers. It was also a good time for people to make wishes and prayers to meet their love ones and soul mates. It was a night of great splendors for all communities to enjoy.
Annually, during the 15th and 16th day of the Chinese New Year, the Teochew Hiang Tiang Siang Ti Temple and Yang Chun Tai stage area which are older than the Kuching Teochew Association are crowded with people making offerings and one of the great attractions is the borrowing of the “Sugar Lion” from the Deityand to return it with an additional “Sugar Lion” in the following year. Borrowing the “Sugar Lion” and keeping it at home will bring good luck and prosperity to the business owner. Lion signifies strength and vigor and leadership. People may also borrow other items such as the “Mandarin Oranges” which signifies peace, harmony, good health and prosperity. The “Kim Hua” which signifies intelligence and scholar achievements and career promotions may also be borrowed from the Deity. Another interesting item that may be borrowed from the Deity on the two days is the “Sugar Pagoda” which signifies high ranking promotions and high achievements. No payment is made until the following year. Before the item can be borrowed, the person must pray to the Deity and asks for approval to borrow the item. The process of seeking approval is rather interesting and can be witnessed at the Temple. This is a very interesting Teochew cultural event not to be missed. .