Christmas Day dinner in Miaoli this year will not be your usual turkey, roast potatoes and carrots. There will be no mince pies and no pudding, but there will be salty, fatty and aromatic specialities, as award-winning chefs prepare Hakka foods as part of the 2005 Taiwan Hakka Festival.
The opening ceremony is tomorrow at the Shan Grira Paradise, Chochiao Township, Miaoli County, and the festival will continue until Feb. 28 next year.
In addition to food, there will be an exhibition of Hakka cultural artifacts and traditional song and dance performances given by students from Guangdong province in southern China, where many of the present-day Hakka, or "guest people" came from.
Most sources say Hakka people are part of the Han tribe, who were chased from north China from the Qin dynasty (221BC to 206 BC). Many transplanted to Taiwan from the 17th century onward.
As an immigrant people Hakka people were often farmers and usually poor. Cuisine was often salty because it was necessary to replenish the salt lost after working hard in the fields. Pork fat was a principal food source of nutrition because it was a cheap source of carbohydrate and pigs were raised by most farmers. Strong flavors were used to make the meal more appealing, as food shortages were common.
During Chinese New Year award-winning chefs from China are being invited over to prepare some of these special Hakka dishes and snacks.
Students will also prepare models of Hakka homes to show off the unique architecture of their houses in China and in Taiwan. Local groups of Hakka people will also provide folklore performances. There will also be fashion shows and lots of games for children.
Admission to the Shan Grira Paradise is NT$400 for adults and NT$360 for children. For further details call (037) 561 369.
There is a way around paying so much, however, and that is by learning a little bit of Hakka before you go. Anyone arriving at the Paradise before 10am on Christmas Day, tomorrow, can get in free by saying a simple phrase in the Hakka language. Check out "ta ga ho" ("How's everyone?