Catholic Immigrants Celebrate Christmas in Taiwan

People check their selfie photos in front of Christmas decorations in New Taipei City, Taiwan, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016. (AP photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) on Sunday spotlighted hundreds of Catholic migrants celebrating Christmas at St. Christopher’s Church in Taipei, Taiwan, continuing a tradition that began in 1958.

The congregation at St. Christopher’s includes a large number of Filipinos and Vietnamese who came to Taiwan seeking job opportunities. Some of the migrants have family already living in Taiwan or marry into Taiwanese families, but others look forward to the Christmas celebration as a chance to “connect with their traditions and cultures back home” and deal with the “sadness and loneliness” of living abroad, as parish priest Father Edward Pacquing put it.

Pacquing said the church organizes holiday events to help migrants “feel like they are part of a family where they can share their love, care, and blessings.” The events include musical performances and Christmas plays staged by the attendees.

“Christmas is a very special day for Filipinos, so to celebrate the tradition here in Taiwan is very special for the children, because they usually don’t get to celebrate it the way we celebrate it in the Philippines, where it involves the whole community and the church,” said Sister Kim Particia Habana.

At another event near the Station Front Metro Mall on Saturday, migrants from India, Japan, Vietnam, Myanmar, and China gathered to make gingerbread houses.

“Taiwan is a multicultural society, and every single migrant who comes to Taiwan is new strength for the nation. They bring great joy, and I also appreciate their efforts to learn the native language and adapt to local life,” Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung said at the mall event.

On Saturday the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in northeastern Taiwan held a Christmas celebration for migrant fishermen. The local community used the event as an opportunity to express appreciation for the fishermen, whose difficult and dangerous occupation was highlighted in October by a tragic incident in which six were killed by a collapsing bridge.

Taiwan is only about five percent Christian, and Christmas has not been an official public holiday since 2001, but it features exuberant Christmas celebrations, decorations, and Christmas carolers in its shopping districts. 

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