Christmas in Taipei

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Despite the not-so-original title of this blog, the title of this blog actually requires an original, self-created experience. Christmas in Taipei does not come about as a natural turn of events.
Now, do not be deceived. I am not about to write a compare and contrast essay about two of my favorite cities (namely, Seattle, WA, and Taipei, TW) around Christmas time, although I could and actually already have gone off on a tangent regarding that topic. But that is for another time and space.
I want to tell you about Christmas in Taipei, an experience I was actually able to create for myself this Christmas season.
Last year, everything about this holiday was a little bit like culture shock. Didn’t really know what was going on, didn’t really know anyone or myself enough to go Christmas shopping, wasn’t really sure how I was going to do everything that the Christmas ministry season was suddenly throwing at me. It was all extremely overwhelming. There were definitely moments with friends and moments of receiving; but from my end, I really didn’t feel like I was giving anything. In addition, walking outside was a little surreal, because the Christmas I encountered in the public spaces was so foreign yet so familiar that the only emotion I was capable of processing was homesickness. There was no Christmas light show, no Santa ringing the Salvation Army bell, no lines of children waiting to sit on Santa’s lap for the camera, no classical Christmas movies on TV, no Christmas Eve candlelight service. In reality, from my end, Christmas happened; and I really had no idea what to do with it, so it barely feels like it even happened.
This year, I experienced Christmas in Taipei. I made plans to attend a Christmas musical on Christmas day at the Taiwan National Theater and helped 21 other people buy discounted tickets for the event. Meanwhile, I actually went out and purchased Christmas cards from a stationery shop (which I’m sending out in the mail TODAY) and baked over 100 cookies and brownies for Christmas Eve and bought lights for our tree. I went holiday shopping at Costco. The week of Christmas I brought something sweet to school everyday for students and co-workers and wore red. I even hosted my school’s Christmas Event for all the students – we did a World Vision Walkathon. My students made colorful chains to hang up around the classroom and wrote Christmas poems that I put all over the wall. I replenished my wardrobe with  a RED COAT, RED DRESS, RED SCARF, and RED SUSPENDER SHIRT. I won speakers for my iPhone at my school’s company Christmas banquet’s lucky draw that I used to blast Christmas music in my room the whole week before  Christmas.
Finally, on Christmas Eve, after I got home from work, we went Christmas caroling and gave out Christmas cookies around Ximen, which was followed by a homemade Christmas Eve Candlelight Service we had at Coffee House, complete with red lit candles everybody held while we sang “Joy to the World.” This morning, I talked to the family on Skype next to my Christmas tree. This afternoon, I’m eating hot pot with all my teammates. Tonight, I’m going to the National Theater to watch a musical.
I experienced Christmas. But the truth is, what I actually did was create Christmas experiences and memories with the people around me. And that’s what Christmas is about. It’s about Jesus and all the friends and family he as given me, no matter where I am in the world.
Merry Christmas, everybody! And when 2010 becomes 2011, have a Happy New Year as well!
“Although in our eyes we are far apart, in his eyes we are all together in his heart.”
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