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Seeking The Christmas Spirit In Taiwan With The “Polar Express” Bullet Train

By John Saboe | Taiwan

Dec 22


For some Christmas in Taiwan might not feel quiet like the time of year they grew up knowing. For one thing, Christmas is not recognized as a holiday on the island. If Christmas falls during the week it’s a regular work day for everyone.

It also doesn’t help that more than 95% of the island is not of Christian faith, so the religious importance of the day and time of year has no significance.

Still many Taiwanese enjoy the Christmas season, going out to shopping malls seeking out selfies in front of the many decorated trees, holiday inspired mascots, like sumo wrestler elves, and Sanrio style characters.

It’s a fun time of year with office parties and gift exchanges, and some households adding some seasonal decor, although there are no live trees sold anywhere, that I’ve seen. A family gathering, is not necessarily important and there are no big holiday meals to shop for and prepare.

As a Westerner what you will notice the most missing is the overall energy, spirit, and anticipation of Christmas and the holidays. That “buzz” in the air, especially a week before the big day is non existent.

On the positive side there isn’t the frenzied feel of people dashing around overspending on gifts and getting upset by long line-ups or stores running out of the latest gadget or toy.

The best thing about Christmas in Taiwan is looking forward to their big celebration that’s just around the corner, Lunar New Year, when the real festivities begin.

This year having spent the most time on the island in December I’ve been extra curious about Christmas light displays, temporary markets, including the fabled Strasbourg Christmas Market appearing in Taipei for the first time, and other ways a foreigner can at the least, feel the essence of the holiday spirit.

I also find that through all of my sharing platforms, including live streaming on Periscope and Facebook, that people from the rest of the world are very curious as to how people celebrate or recognize the holiday in other countries and cultures.

So I hopped on what was my version of the “Polar Express”, Taiwan’s Bullet train, from Taipei, out to Taoyuan District to see the closest HSR station to the international airport, the new MRT airport line, and some wonderful Christmas light displays in a new shopping mall that I heard was authentically festive.

Who would have thought that someone in a foreign land could find peace and that warm undeniable feeling of goodwill toward man amidst outdoor clothing stores, and luxury brands.

Walking around that quiet new outlet mall with people putting the last minute touches on their store opening, listening to tasteful Christmas music, enjoying the dazzling illumination made possible by Taiwanese LED lights and watching children playing under a little snow machine surprised me.

Those few moments stirred up wonderful feelings of treasured memories and reminded me that Christmas, if you allow it, is with us no matter where we find ourselves in the world.

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About the Author

I am a broadcaster, photographer, writer and videographer with a passion for travel throughout Asia. I love making connections and engaging with people. I am spiritual and seek adventure wherever I go.

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