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Chinese New Year in Taiwan part two: Gift giving, etiquette and more

Last week  we talked about the logistics of experiencing Chinese New Year in Taiwan (Part one : Chinese New Year in Taiwan : The Six Days of Chinese New Year). This week, we’ll get down to the business of giving gifts, visiting etiquette and stuff like that. It might get confusing, so stick with us! The Red Envelope Perhaps no single item is as associated with Chinese New Year as the red envelope or hóng bǎo. Unlike the closest analogous holiday season to Chinese New Year in the west (December’s Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa period, or, if you’re not a fan of any of those, Seinfeld’s Festivus holiday) in which gifts between family members are usually store bought (or hand-made) items, in Taiwan the standard gift is money served in a perfumed red envelope. Generally, the traditional hóng bǎo flow is from old to young; youth are the beneficiaries of…

Why you need to put the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival on your bucket list in 2018

Picture dozens of traditional Chinese lanterns, angels of flame and light, each bearing individual wishes skyward into the heavens. That’s Pingxi, a small town in Taiwan on most evenings of the year. Now imagine the experience multiplied a hundredfold or more, with accompanying fanfare, people and celebrations. That’s the Annual Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, celebrated at the end of Taiwan’s Lunar New Year’s Festival. Esteemed travel giant Fodors has named it “One of fifteen festivals to attend before you die”. Lonely Planet sings the festival’s praise on its website:  “Of all the ancient Chinese festivals, Pingxi’s Lantern Festival has best been re-imagined for the modern age, with spectacular light shows, live concerts and giant glowing mechanical lanterns.”  National Geographic, CNN, the Discovery Channel and many more have similarly ranked the festival highly on global must do festivals lists. R I K A ☻(@s2_rk)分享的貼文 於 PST 2017 年 2月 月 13 日…

Christmas in Taiwan

Though Christmas isn’t an official holiday in Taiwan, folks around these parts are generally up for any excuse to engage in festivities so it hardly comes as a surprise that this most festive of western holidays has caught on somewhat on our predominantly Buddhist / Taoist / Tribal island nation. Signs of holiday festivities abound, from piped-in Christmas carols in most supermarkets (usually starting with typical Taiwanese decorum in early December, as opposed to the day after Halloween as is increasingly the case in the USA) to holiday decorations hung casually in coffee shop windows. (On a related note, we were particularly impressed with both the efficiency and cultural inclusivity demonstrated by this particular display recently spotted in the window of the Louisa Coffee Shop across from the Tzu Chi Buddhist hospital, combining expertly and efficiently iconography from both Halloween and Christmas.) While Christmas isn’t technically celebrated in Taiwan (it’s…

Happy Birthday, Red Room!

As Northern Taiwan cools down, sun-seeking Taipei-ren head down South for the weekend, and that was my plan for this one. It was a great plan, one which included snorkeling with sea turtles down on Xiao Liuqiu island off the coast of Pingtung. But as the old Chinese saying goes, Jì huà gǎn bu shàng biàn huà (計劃趕不上變化), or “plans cannot keep up with change” (special thanks to Business Development Specialist Ann Lee who sits across from me in the office for providing that one – I was originally going to go with the Mexican saying “if you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans). To make a long story short, my partner Stephanie wound up having a crucial university exam rescheduled for the weekend, so out the window went our southern trip. But spending the weekend in Taipei isn’t a bad thing, and especially not the coming one,…

Guanyin, Snakes & History’s Ghosts: An Afternoon on Turtle Island

All photos credit to Stephanie Huffman and Candace Chen Though the form for which the island is named is readily apparent from angles further north and south, from Toucheng pier due west, Turtle Island looks more slug-like than terrapin-shaped. A small and curving rock covered in green, the island – like all points on the horizon – grows larger and more distinctive as our boat draws closer. There are about sixty people on the Blue Whale, all wearing bright orange life jackets and hoping to catch a glimpse of the dolphins sometimes spotted frolicking around the island. The boat takes its time along the island’s southern end, a steep hill dotted with carved outcroppings. “Are those lookout points?”, asks Stephanie. I point to the long, faded green barrel of a cannon just sticking out of one of the outcropping. “Among other things,” I answer. As with many of Taiwan’s outer…