Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Another major holiday has practically come and gone. Christmas in Taiwan is simply another guise for mass commercialism. Public spaces are decked in Christmas lights and decorations. Christmas trees and Christmas tree effigies are erected in outdoor spaces and in department stores, hotels and restaurants, any other space unspoken for by Christmas paraphernalia is filled by blaring Christmas music at every turn. You’d think that Christmas was a nationally celebrated holiday, but the Taiwanese don’t even get a day off work for Christmas. The head to toe display of Christmas regalia is just short of having a Santa Claus on every corner. Thankfully the Taiwanese haven’t adopted this as another custom to emulate overzealously.

The Taiwanese seem to have a curious habit of readily adopting foreign customs. Once example clearly imprinted in my mind is how Taiwanese not only celebrate Valentine’s Day, but also “Chinese Valentine’s Day” in August, and then insisted on adopting “White Day”- Japan’s version of Valentine’s Day. It’s things like this that really lead me to wonder if the Taiwanese know who they are.

Back on the topic of the superficial phenomena of Christmas- I suppose that Christianity just hasn’t really infiltrated Taiwan’s mainstream society. Most Taiwanese don’t know the meaning or story of Christmas, nor do they celebrate Christmas. It was extremely difficult to find a restaurant that served a true turkey dinner on Christmas eve, but then again that could just be Kaohsiung, which, in many respects, tends to be many light years away from Taipei. I’m most certainly not criticizing how the Taiwanese “celebrate” or represent Christmas- why should they give a rat’s a—about this foreign custom? Even in Christian, western societies the commercialization of Christmas is rampant.

I did manage to unintentionally combat my family’s lack of celebratory customs in Taiwan. For me Christmas has always had more secular meaning. My family is not Christian and I consider myself agnostic. As children, we (my sister and family peers aka cousins) learned and appreciated the morals behind tales of Santa Claus & A Christmas Carol. Later Christmas came symbolize an annual family gathering when we all went away to college and returned for the holidays.

My friend JC and I organized a "Pre-Christmas Cheer" party this past Saturday. The impetus was JC’s suggestion to organize a gathering to make introductions between our various circles of friends. I’m certain that my friends in New York remember my love of organizing such social gatherings. As JC and I plotted, I realized that Christmas and New Year’s was fast approaching, and that this would be my first Christmas and New Year's spent in Taiwan. I wanted to do something fun and festive for the occasion, so I thought what better thing to do than have a pre-Christmas get together and gift exchange? The whole thing just snowballed into a gathering of 15 people! It made me reminisce about my New York days when I'd love to organize long overdue monthly gatherings with my friends. In New York, there’s such an intensity in life. People just have a way of loosing track of time and people as they go about their lives in their own worlds. It's not unusual for people to get so wrapped up in work, relationships, etc. and not see each other for months on end- even though they may live less than a mile away from each other! On Saturday, one of my friends insightfully remarked that it’s the happiest that she’s seen me in a long time.


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