Last week we had our annual sports event at the Lutheran seminary, called the “Luther Cup.” Everyone participates, all the students, teachers and the coworkers, and it was great to have such a day in between the everyday school routine. In the morning we had basketball, dodgeball, and ping-pong tournaments, and in the afternoon there were some fun group competitions like three-legged race or the coke drinking contest. We had great weather and enjoyed the fellowship!
Mid-February we celebrated Chinese New Year, the biggest family celebration in Taiwan and Chinese culture. Before Chinese New Year Amy and Anna learned a lot about traditions and stories about Chinese New Year in preschool. They also taught us a lot we didn’t know yet. They did a lot of crafts, too. Amy, for example, painted a sign with Chinese characters to hang at our door.
During the holidays we went to Taipei and stayed in our former home, which is currently vacant. Our former neighbors invited us to celebrate together with them. We ate a lot of yummy food, played games, had a little firework, … At one of the holidays we went to a park we occasionally visited while we still lived in Taipei. At night we went to a night market to visit one of Joe’s students, who is also one of Anna’s best friends. Because his parents have a stall on the night market, he grew up there and knows a lot of people and which stalls have the best food… We ate a lot of delicious things there and the girls enjoyed playing some games. We also attended the worship of our former church. It was really nice to reconnect with so many friends over the holidays and it just felt a little bit like coming home…
Like in the years before, we and our colleagues organized a German Christmas Eve service in Taipei. Altogether we were about 60 people and it was great to have a little bit of German Christmas here in Taiwan. After the service we drove back to our home in Hsinchu (about one hour). Our German colleagues and some other people who came to the Christmas Eve service joined us in our house to celebrate together. We ate German Schnitzel and had a good time together…. On the morning of Christmas Day Amy and Anna went to preschool as usual, as there was some gift exchange they didn’t want to miss. At night we finally celebrated Christmas as a family. After having some good food, we sang some Christmas songs, read the Christmas story, and unwrapped our gifts, which our kids have expected for so long…
Although in Taiwan nobody knows advent and Christmas is not a public holiday, Christmas gets more important in Taiwanese public every year. There Christmas trees everywhere, one can hear Christmas music (sometimes even German Christmas songs) and there has never been so much Christmas decoration to buy in the supermarket than this year. But most of the people don’t know the reason for the season.
Beginning with Advent we decorated our house and made a bunch of Christmas cookies that we also gave to some friends. We had a lot of Christmas celebrations (at the Lutheran Seminary, in Amy’s and Anna’s preschool,…) and Amy had some performances with her kids choir and her preschool, even at an event with Taiwan’s vice president. During Advent we also invited some friends over to our home to celebrate Christmas with them. Next week we also have invited our former neighbors from Taipei to our house to celebrate Christmas together. We are already excited for them to come and hope that they can feel God’s love and the reason why we celebrate Christmas – because God came to earth to be close to us and that this is also true for today.
The Moon Festival (or Mid-Autumn Festival) is one of the great family gatherings in Taiwan. Families and friends meet and have barbecue together and enjoy the mid-autumn moon (they say it’s the most beautiful moon in the year…).
This year we celebrated the Moon Festival three times. First, we met with some of the coworkers of our seminary to have barbecue in the seminarie’s backyard. On the actual holiday, we went with some friends for a short hike in a river valley. The children played on the river, caught tadpoles and we had a barbecue together. The valley was beautiful, and we really enjoyed the time in nature.
The weekend after that we went with our two former neighbor families from Taipei to a “BBQ restaurant”. It was not a real restaurant … The grill stuff and the grill were provided by the restaurant, but everyone could to grill by himself. Everything one can imagine was ready to grill: beef, pork, sheep, fish, various mussels, vegetables, and even a whole chicken was served. There were also two thermal water ponds to soak before and after BBQ, which our two girls really enjoyed. This year marks the third time that we celebrated the Moon Festival with our neighbors. It is great that although we have not lived in Taipei for almost two years now, we still have such good contact with them and we really miss that we cannot just go over the street to see them every day.
The first half of February we celebrated Chinese New Year. Although it´s already past, we want to share a little bit about how we celebrated Chinese New Year with you…
Chinese New Year has six holidays in a row and is the biggest family holiday in Taiwan. Already the night before Chinese New Year the family will gather and have a big meal together (a little similar to the German Christmas Eve). Like in the last years our former neighbors from Taipei invited us to celebrate Chinese New Year with them. We feel very honored to be included in their families.
At Chinese New Year, kids and parents give each other red envelopes with money (Hong Bao) as a gift. Amy and Anna also got some of these envelopes, which made them very happy.
Lantern Festival, which is two weeks after New Year’s Eve, is the official ending of the Chinese New Year celebrations. In a lot of parks beautiful lanterns are put on display and the kids (and also adults) really like to watch them.
Since last semster Simone is leading a wives fellowship together with the wife of the director of the school here. Before last semester there was no group for the wives of the students who live at the school together with their husbands. Now they meet twice a month to read the bible, talk about different themes, pray together, doing some crafts,… About half of the wives have little kids already. So they enjoy having a time together with other women to get strength for their daily lives.
Last week we had midterm exams, which means that half of our second semester at China Lutheran Seminary is over. As in the first semester, Joe participates in the church history class, which enables him on the one hand to prepare the content of the class for the future and, on the other hand, to continue his research work. In addition, new tasks have also been added in this semester, for example a small group with the new students that meets at home every other week. We also have community activities, for example, two weeks ago we had an excursion with all the students and staff of the seminary. It is nice that we are now more and more part of the community here and we already know the Chinese names of many people, which is not that easy to remember for us foreigners…
This Thursday people here in Taiwan celebrated the Moon Festival. The festival is celebrated according to the moon calendar at the time of the first autumn full moon. Like the last three years our former neighbors from Taipei invited us for barbecue. Barbecue is a very common thing to do on the Moon Festival and there are a lot of people doing barbecue on the streets. Because most Taiwanese people only barbecue once a year on the Moon Festival, that day they do it very extensive. We started at about 5pm. When we left at about 10pm, they still had meat and fish on the grill. It was great to spend time with our former neighbors and to celebrate Moon Festival together with them.