When Santa Claus drives a bus

Christmas decorations around Taipei 101, once the world’s highest skyscraper

Christmas 2020 will be remembered in most Christian countries as a very special occasion, even though for all the wrong reasons! I’m currently in the Spanish city of Valencia, where severe coronavirus restrictions have been put in place for the holiday season.

Therefore I decided not to accept my second-oldest brother’s invitation to Berlin this year, as I did in 2019. Specially, because the situation in the German capital seems to be even worse than here…

Looking back at about 20 years in Taiwan, my first Christmas after returning to the island in May 1999 was probably the most remarkable. Freed from all those family obligations I used to have in Germany, I spent it alone with my first Taiwanese girlfriend.

As I didn’t have a real kitchen, I prepared some simple food and we both enjoyed it with a bottle of red wine. It was very nice, almost liberating, and I didn’t miss the big roasted Polish goose my mother used to prepare.

She was born in a part of Germany annexed by Poland after World War II, but I never asked her if this culinary choice for that part of the year was somehow related to her ancestral home.

Although only 4 % of Taiwan’s 23 million inhabitants are Christians, quite evenly distributed among Catholics and Protestants, you realize that Christmas is approaching when in October related songs are being played at supermarkets, department stores or convenience stores.

Who could blame people with a completely different cultural background for doing so, as they think it’s just fun to copy the West and some of those golden oldies are actually very pleasant to listen to?

Sometimes it got a little weird, though. I remember that a bus company asked all of its drivers to wear a Santa Claus costume for about a month. At least they weren’t forced to wear an artificial beard!

Surprisingly, in Taipei you can attend mess in Spanish every Sunday, organized by and for the relatively small, nevertheless quite active Latin American community. Therefore, during Christmas and Easter there’s a lot of activity.

To my great despair, I just missed the traditional Christmas lunch of the Spanish House of Spain in Taiwan (Casa de España en Taiwán) in the southern port of Kaohsiung.

As I plan to go back to Asia in April, I hope to be able to participate next year, like I did many times before. At the end, it’s more important with whom you celebrate than where!


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