Christmas is celebrated more widely in Taiwan than in mainland China. Although not many people in Taiwan are Christians (about 5%), many stores will sell Christmas related items at Christmas time. It’s also not a national holiday in Taiwan.
Even so, most children know about Santa Claus and might even know a Christmas song or two! Parents of children at popular English schools expect a full Christmas festival, complete with gift exchanges, singing, and of course, a visit to the school from Santa! Many schools will perform a kind of Christmas a pageant or play with sugar plum fairies, reindeer, snowflakes, elves and other Christmas characters singing on stage for parents.
Christmas in Taiwan
People from Taiwan mostly don’t celebrate Christmas with the exception of a few, as only around 5% of the population are actually Christian, the rest are usually Buddhist or atheists. The 25th of December isn’t even anational holiday, it used to be though, as that was the date the Constitution of the Republic of China was signed in 1947 (officially called the constitution day) in 1963 they made it a national holiday which people then treated at Christmas, however due to many current reasons that has now ceased since 2001, and people now have to work on the day and shops stay open.
The majority of people are Buddhists and therefore do not celebrate and even as little as 20 years ago no-one celebrated Christmas at all as no-one studied Christianity, the more people that now turn to Christianity the more Christmas is celebrated.
There are many dinners around Christmas time and it’s celebrated with friends and family, everyone is fine dressed, with delicate cuisine and homemade cakes, even the none Christians get attracted due to its colourful, friendly and joyful festivities.
Whereas the younger generations now prefer to celebrate with parties and gatherings with their friends.
Due to the small amount of Christians allot of families only celebrate with their church ‘families’.
Many people shop more than usual especially for food or they dine at restaurants more often so businesses keepers bring in more revenue around Christmas, so it’s getting allot more of a commercial holiday these days. A few family homes do have Christmas trees as they’re becoming more popular and some stores also decorate.
Some schools now even hold Caroling shows; churches often have Christmas parents and shows by the Sunday school children at which Santa Claus may appear baring gifts for the children.
Other than their gift from Santa children may only get one other present from their parents.
Like many other countries and cultures in that are the biggest celebration around that time is usually at Chinese New Year, allot of time people would forget if Christmas was around.
Best things to do in Taiwan over Christmas
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… everywhere you go…” sang Johnny Mathis in the classic festive song. In Taiwan, that is definitely debatable. While the insufferable humidity of summer may have ebbed away, days are still filled with bright sunshine when the air pollution allows and apart from elderly locals, there are far more t-shirts in evidence than coats and hats.
But the fact is the Christmas is nigh. And although it is not an official holiday in Taiwan, it will nonetheless be marked by a great many people here. Taiwan’s Christian minority will be celebrating the birth of Jesus, ex-pats will be looking forward to a festive mean and raucous Christmas party, and in schools, children will be eagerly devouring the consumerist Christmas traditions we have all come to look forward to.
It can be hard to celebrate Christmas in Taiwan. This year, Christmas Day is on a Monday, which means many will have to work, and for expats, Christmas away from family and friends can be tough. But there is still plenty of things to do to help you get into the festive spirit. And here is my rundown of my favorites:
- Christmasland, New Taipei City – 新北耶誕城
(Image by flickr user Lanban)
Taiwan does not have too many dedicated Christmas-themed events to enjoy, but Christmasland in New Taipei City is probably the biggest. Held in Banqiao, Christmasland sees a huge swath of New Taipei being turned into a true Winter Wonderland. Highlights include Taiwan’s tallest Christmas tree, a huge Christmas market, a Christmas fair with rides for all the family, carol singers galore, and of course some of the best Christmas decorations in the whole country.
This year’s Christmasland is the biggest yet and includes special events which include a children’s carnival with cartoon characters, an environmentally friendly treasure hunt, and a white Christmas featuring Pororo the Little Penguin. It is not the place to go to escape Christmas consumerism, but for full-on festive spirit, Christmasland has everything you will need. It is open from now until January 1st
- Enjoy some seasonal baking
(Wikimedia Commons image)
Taiwan today is awash with cafes and bakeries and they will all be rolling out their festive desserts and treats for the Christmas season. And when it comes to novelty baking, Taiwan has the edge on just about everywhere. You can pick up doughnuts shaped like snowmen and Santa Claus, reindeer red-bean buns and countless Christmas biscuits.
Gingerbread houses are also popular both to eat and as decoration and these can be found in café’s, shops, and even apartment building foyers too. Take a tour of your local cafes to see what yuletide treats you can snap up. Most will be pumping out the Christmas music for the rest of December too. And if you like a bargain, Donutes Caféand Bakery (多那之咖啡烘培), which has branches across the country, will be holding their annual sale on Christmas Eve from 8pm. Everything must go and its all half price.
- Let your hair down at a Christmas Party
(Wikimedia Commons image)
Christmas Day may be on Monday, but that does not mean there will not be plenty of Christmas parties to enjoy throughout the Christmas weekend. Many bars and pubs across the country will be getting into the festive spirit with Christmas parties featuring Christmas music, season drink such as mulled wine and eggnog, festive food, and much, much, more.
In Taipei, places like Brass Monkey and Carnegie’s are renowned for their raucous Christmas bashes. In Kaohsiung, the Lighthouse Pub and Foster Hewitts are the best places to start, and elsewhere in Taiwan, the popular expat establishments are all likely to be doing something.
- Go to church
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If you prefer Christmas to be a more spiritual affair or just want to get away from the festive maelstrom and enjoy something a bit more fulfilling, why not visit a church over the Christmas period. It does not really matter whether you are Christian or not, there is something about the atmosphere in a church at Christmas which can be uplifting and relaxing at the same time.
There will be plenty of Christmas carol services taking place in English and Chinese in Churches around the country and if you are really keen, you could join groups of churchgoers who visit places like prisons and orphanages to sing carols there. For me, the festive feel of a church depends on its design and the many churches you see on the 5th floor of apartment blocks won’t cut it. So, instead why not check out the Holy Rosary Cathedral(玫瑰聖母堂) in Kaohsiung, the Luce Memorial Chapel (路思義教堂)in Taichung, or Jinan Church (濟南教會) in Taipei.
- Visit Christmas Lane in Beitou – 吉慶里聖誕巷
(Image by Pixnet user Mei-Mei’s travel Book)
Unusually for Taiwan, this Christmas attraction has sprung up thanks solely to local residents rather than being a state-organized event. Every year from the last two weeks in December until Chinese New Year, the residents of one lane in Beitou (北投) decorate their houses for Christmas. The entire street is festooned with fairy lights and many houses also add festive plants and plenty more decorations besides.
Very few homes in Taiwan get decorated for Christmas, so this is quite a unique sight, It can be enjoyed at Alley 15, Lane 71, Section 1, Shipai Road (石牌路), Beitou District, Taipei City. If you are not local to Beitou, trust me, it is definitely worth hopping on the MRT for
- Take in Taipei 101’s Frozen-themed Christmas carnival
There is usually a Christmas-themed event at Taipei 101 and this year is no exception. If your kid is a fan of the Disney movie Frozen (and I am yet to meet a child that is not) then they will love the Taipei 101 Christmas Festival which this year has a Frozen theme.
There is an ice-skating rink, Christmas marketplace, and various other kid-friendly activities being held throughout the Christmas period. And although activities cost money, it is free to enter too.
- Go decoration-spotting
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Even though Taiwan does not officially celebrate Christmas, that does not stop people putting up Christmas decorations everywhere. Almost every café, shop, and apartment block will have made some effort to mark Christmas with a tree, some tinsel and baubles, or a novelty Santa Claus model.
You could head somewhere like the Xinyi Shopping District in Taipei or Dream Mall in Kaohsiung where the Christmas decorations are truly impressive. But for me, it is more fun to go hunting for those decorations which are (to be polite) underwhelming. Taiwan does a great line in shockingly decorated Christmas trees, ill-thought through decorations, and frankly lazy and uninterested Seasonal displays. There never fail to get a laugh from those who get Christmas, so why not fill your Facebook timeline with pictures of the worst Christmas trees in your area. There are always plenty to choose from!
- See some real snow
If you want a real feel for Christmas, then why not enjoy a real Winter feel with cold weather and some real snow. This can be done in Taiwan, but you will have to venture a little further afield to enjoy it. Up into the mountains to be precise.
Snow is already falling on Yushan (玉山), Taiwan’s tallest mountain during this current cold snap. And on Hehuanshan (合歡山), the most popular destination for Taiwan’s snow fans, there has already been sleet, with snow expected to follow soon. It will not be there for long if it does, so don’t delay once you see on Taiwan News that it has arrived.