Senryu told us that some stores and restaurants had Christmas décor up in Taiwan, but in the apartment she was living in, there was no sign of Christmas. Here at home, the scene was set: decorations and lights filled the tree, stockings were on the stair railing, and Christmas dolls stood in a line across the piano. I took photos of these things and emailed them to Senryu so she could show her host family and friends what Christmas looks like at home.
One photo our correspondent sent home reflected the true state of Christmas in her home-away-from-home: Mary and Joseph driving Santa’s sleigh. My first thought was that the meaning behind Christmas had been lost in translation.
To bring a bit of Taiwanese culture into our own celebration this year, I opted to give each family member a pair of slippers instead of our traditional new pajamas. In Taiwan, as in other Asian nations, it is almost mandatory that one wear slippers in the home. Shoes are left at the door and bare feet are not acceptable. Of course, the enforcement of that “rule” varies from home to home.
From Senryu’s letters home, I thought that perhaps our Christmas dinner should be Ramen Noodles and Fast Food Take-out to reflect how she was being fed. She suggested that we select a traditional Chinese menu, as that was the best food she had experienced in Taiwan. We currently have omnivores and vegetarians under our roof, so our menu included a little something for everyone: Red-Cooked Chicken (which means braised in a soy-sauce mixture), Eight Immortal Jai (Bot Bo Jai) a traditional Cantonese vegetarian stir-fry, and homemade egg rolls. Okay, I admit it, I bought the egg roll wrappers premade, but I did make the filling, then wrap and bake them! Of course, there was a big dish of fluffy white rice to accompany it all and we had a selection of green-teas to drink. We skipped the Almond Cookies I had planned because there were so many Christmas Cookies still on hand.
Our Christmas doll this year represents an auburn-haired American Girl in her Taiwanese school uniform. She has her laptop handy for reading, writing, and keeping in touch with her friends back home. Doesn’t she look ready to take on the world?
1st photo by Senryu, 2nd photo by Aisling