Many Christmas decorations have a “Made in Taiwan” sticker on them, but Taiwan being 97 percent Buddhist and Animist does not celebrate Christmas as a whole. The Chinese people are great business people and so at Christmas time, all the shops and businesses are decorated with lots of Christmas decorations because it has red in it—a happy, festive color for the Chinese and the Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) that soon follows Christmas. The New Year holiday is a gift-giving and food and family celebration with time off from work and includes extra bonuses, much like our Christmas holiday. In January, the Chinese celebrate a “Light Festival” and have parades with light-themed floats.
The 3 percent Christians in Taiwan use this time to share with their Buddhist neighbors, family, and friends by having a Christmas program at the church with the children of these people. The families want to see their children perform in these Christmas programs that proclaim the message Jesus came as God’s greatest gift to bridge the broken relationship between Him and mankind. The Buddhists are excited to see how Christmas is celebrated with stories, plays, songs, and special foods. Another outreach is the Christian and non-Christian young people who go in “caroling caravans” (cars and motorcycles) for an all-night visitation of church members’ apartments and homes, and ends the next morning by crashing on the Pastor’s living room floor after hot cider and lichee-nut rice porridge soup to catch a nap before they return to their student dorms or housing. They sing Christmas songs that carry the message of “Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come” or “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Silent Night Holy Night,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Some churches build floats for the “Light-themed Parade” displaying “Jesus is the Light of the World,” and throw candy from the float and distribute tracts to the people along the parade route, thereby being a Christian witness in the Buddhist parade.
Christians in Taiwan use the holiday time to invite their Buddhist family and friends to see what Christmas is really about … they share God’s love and good news through plays, songs, food, fun, and fellowship in a festive celebration—they sow the seed and God gives the increase.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!
Crystal Walker is an employee of World Missions and a former missionary to Taiwan. She is also the daughter of deceased former World Missions Director Herb Walker.