My English name is Lidia Reyes and my Chinese name is Li di ya (李迪亞). Basically my Chinese name is a translation of my first name “Lidia”, and it was a good surprise that my “Chinese Family Name”, Li (李) is kind of famous, common and a good one, according with what some classmates told me. Since September 2014 I am at Yuan Ze University (YZU) in pursuit of an International Graduate Program in Industrial Engineering and Management (IEM) and I hope to finish next year in July.

From the moment I landed in Taiwan I heard good things from some people I met about how good people the Taiwanese are. I was kind of skeptical at first and the intimidating language barrier prevented me from making an effort with the locals. I was confused and realized how difficult it would be to try to interact with the locals.

Enjoying the way Taiwanese Celebrate “New Year”

The Chinese New Year is the most important of the holidays for the Taiwanese, defined as the first day of the first month in the Lunar calendar. Unlike the Christian New Year, which is based on a solar calendar, the Chinese New Year is based on the traditional Chinese luni-solar calendar which dates indicate both the moon phase and the time of the solar year. A lunar month is around 2 days shorter than a solar month. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar, an extra month is inserted every few years. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.

One of my Taiwanese friends, invited me to join with her husband's family on this special and important eve for Taiwanese people. For me, that moment was a regular invitation and I thought that I should think about the budget and anything that I would need for that time (one week) in Kaohsiung, located in southern-western Taiwan. But after talking about hotel, food, etc. with her, she told me that I wouldn't have to worry about anything of that! It was kind of amazing to know that they invited me to stay in this house; and I wondered: why do this family, without knowing me, allowed me to stay with them? They received me with great courtesy and attention.

My friend's in-law showed me everything I would use at their home, for example, my room, the different areas of the house, the bathroom, the kitchen, and they let me wear what I wanted. They even gave me a key to come and go as I desired. That struck me and showed me the camaraderie and how important you could feel if you have a Taiwanese as a friend, because they will make you feel part of their family.

To share with them their special dinner was a great experience and I got to know some of the things they do at that moment. Normally, the celebration will start from the New Year's Eve and will last for around 15 days until the middle of the first month (February). Before the celebration, people will normally completely clean the house and display traditional New Year decorations. This festivity is the time for family reunion, which is the most important part of the Chinese New Year celebration. People will normally visit relatives and friends, do some shopping, watch traditional Chinese shows, launch fireworks, and plan for the coming year.

The celebration will sometimes be highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of heaven, earth, the family ancestors and other gods (But my friends are Christian so they went to a protestant church). They cook delicious and special dishes (I forgot their names because they were too many J) enjoy with music and talking. And to see how important their parents and friends for them are, makes me conclude that this time is very similar to the way we usually celebrate in the Christmas season: Family, food, gifts (Here the gifts are red envelopes with money given to children and old people, according with my experience). During my time spent with them I couldn’t believe the complete kindness and generosity that was shown to me by my friend and her family.