Sat, Dec 24, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Solace for the season

'Tis the season to be assailed in shopping centers by medleys of Christmas carols, Frank Sinatra remixes and wide-eyed staff wearing chintzy Yuletide apparel. Yet the commercialization of Christmas in Taiwan is overstated, given that the spiritual base of the occasion was never widely inculcated here. Coke-red Santa Claus is the flavor of the month, not the infant Jesus -- but not because Christ has been rejected as such. The Nativity simply could not keep up with the grafting of Western materialism onto a middle class that prefers syncretic Chinese religions and ancestor worship.

Nevertheless, throughout this nation, there are many people who will tonight and tomorrow go to church and thank God for the blessings they have received and pray that this should continue. They include people from the less than 10 percent of Han Taiwanese who are Christian, the vast majority of Aborigines who were largely converted in the last 60 years, the vast majority of Filipinas and Filipinos who labor for the middle and upper classes to support families back home, and a smattering of other foreigners who, for one reason or another, find themselves in Taiwan this December.

Christmas is not a holiday here, nor should it be. That would turn harmless materialism into something crass and phony. This year, however, Christians will be thankful that Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, so that they may share this holy day with their family and friends unbothered by work.

For those of Christian heritage in Taiwan who are separated from family -- especially the lonely, the sick, the tormented, the abandoned and the jaded -- Christmas Day can be the most challenging and distressing day of the year. If "Christmas spirit" exists, it must refer to the inspiration that guides the well-to-do -- financially or spiritually -- into looking out for the wretched and offering them substantive comfort. Regardless of one's faith or philosophy, there is considerable solace to be had from the message of birth and triumph amid squalor and duress that the Christmas story tells.

Christmas is also a time to take stock of one's life in relation to one's family, and this can be unbearably painful for those who have lost family members forever through divorce or death. The Bible has many words to say on such suffering, and offers remedies that may not convince the skeptical. But for atheists and people of other religions, there is no doubting that hope and love remain the most powerful and healing of these. It is a paradox that people find these powerful feelings so difficult to talk about outside doctrinaire settings, yet it is these feelings that can bring suffering to as early an end as possible.

Suffering takes an overwhelming number of forms, and too much remains inflicted upon human beings by their own kind. The region in which we live is no exception, though Taiwan -- for the moment -- is mercifully free of the worst examples of terror and violence. The Christmas message of peace and goodwill is today familiar to the point of meaninglessness, but thought about again slowly and soberly, it is a message that truly applies to all. It is sincerely hoped that Taiwanese and all others here will continue to grow in the presence of a continuing peace and increasing goodwill.

The Taipei Times wishes all of its readers and their families a bountiful and meaningful Christmas.

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