They came dressed up stylishly in their best Baba and Nyonya suits. Men buttoned up to the neck and women in tight fitting skirts and embroidered baju that were pinned together with glittering jewelry complete with beaded saddles. There was no lack of people, young and old, Chinese and non-Chinese that graced the occasion to celebrate Chap Goh Meh at CDM (Church of Divine Mercy) in elaborate fashion on the night of the 11th February. Their presence fulfilled the main aim of the organizing committee to create an awareness of the Baba and Nyonya culture in our modern society. This Peranakan Chinese tradition which arose from the inter-marriages of the Chinese with people of Malay, Indian and Eurasian ethnicities that gave rise to a rich cultural heritage was taken up by the Chinese Apostolate Ministry at CDM to provide a good educational experience for all the parishioners. This was also to revive a unique and beautiful culture of Chinese roots that seemed to be diminishing in our society.
The festival of events began with Fr Martin Arlando, parish priest of CDM, blessing the food and followed immediately with a fireworks display and a 11 course buffet dinner. While enjoying their dinner the parishioners were treated to a video presentation narrating the history of the Baba Nyonya society beginning back in Malacca. Keeping in mind a caring concern of those less fortunate in this celebration, the Chinese Apostolate took this opportunity to incorporate an outreach program by inviting orphans from various homes in Penang to join with gifts of ang-pows and dinner.
As the events of the night continued, entertainment in seven different forms of traditional songs and dances, skits, and Angkalong performances were carried out by parishioners of all races in which Fr Martin also joined in. It was most evident that many had practised diligently for many weeks to give their best and this was warmly appreciated by all. There were two comperes for the night. A Chinese lady who spoke Mandarin while an Indian gentleman translated her words into English to the delight of those listening. In addition, 11 lucky parishioners went home with Lucky Draw prizes and three men and three women won prizes for donning the best dressed traditional costume.
In view that this event was also a fund raising occasion for the proposed new building at CDM, the Chinese Apostolate members managed to sell 386 tickets and obtained 49 sponsors from various organizations and individuals of different races and religions. In total a sum of RM22,850 was successfully raised and presented to Fr Martin in the form of a mock cheque towards the end of the celebrations.
The celebration came to an end with everyone joining in the singing of traditional Malay songs with a final blast of fireworks display signaling the end of a fun-filled night. The efforts of the organizing committee will be proudly remembered as a night when all parishioners at CDM crossed over race, colour and age to celebrate as one family, a rich traditional and cultural event in our multi-racial society of Malaysia.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
20th February, 2017