Fri, Dec 19, 2014 - Page 10 News List

International Christmas

Families are welcome to join the caroling and reveling in Wulai on Sunday when Santa will show up for some holiday cheer, candies and school supplies to the local children

By Dana Ter  /  Staff reporter

A joyous moment captured at the Christmas charity drive for the children of Wulai’s Atayal community in 2011.

Photo courtesy of Russ McClay

Many of you are secretly pining for an iPhone 6 or a new boyfriend for Christmas (I want both). But a quick MRT ride to Xindian (新店), followed by a short bus ride to Wulai (烏來), you’ll realize that another world exists outside of first-world winter woes.

Many of us long-term expats have made Taiwan our “home” and as the holiday season rolls around, it’s time to give back to the country that has done so much for us. For the fourth year in a row, the Atayal Organization has co-organized a Christmas charity drive for the children of the Atayal community in Wulai.

Their efforts will culminate in a Christmas show outside of the Wulai Atayal Museum on Sunday. Santa will be handing out donated school supplies, clothes and candies to the local children. There will also be caroling and reveling.

‘Spiritual home’

Tony Coolidge, the organization’s executive director, moved from the US to Taiwan five and a half years ago after the passing of his Atayal mother. Since then, he has considered Wulai his “spiritual home.”

“Coming to Taiwan to discover [my] roots has been part of my healing and reconnecting with a sense of family,” Coolidge told the Taipei Times. “I am always at peace when I’m amongst the mountains, clouds and butterflies — the Aboriginal people of Wulai are my family, so I feel a calling to do what I can to give back.”

The idea behind “Christmas in Wulai” originated from him and his friend Gary Smoke, who now serves as the organization’s director of international relations.

“Since I was already known in social circles as a Santa Claus every holiday season, Tony and I decided to join forces to give back to the Wulai Aboriginal community together,” said Smoke (spoiler alert: Smoke is Santa).

Event notes:

What: Christmas in Wulai

When: Sunday at 1pm to 4pm

Where: Wulai Atayal Museum (烏來泰雅民族博物館), 12, Wulai St, New Taipei City (新北市烏來街12號), tel: (02) 2661-8162

Admission: Free

On the net:

Smoke adds that “the Wulai children are especially touched when they see that people all over Taiwan and other parts of the world care enough about them to come to their hometown to share their love through their time, efforts and gifts.”

This year the focus has also been on cultural exchange, and, in particular, educating visitors about Aboriginal culture through the picturesque scenery and the museum’s exhibits. Smoke says that this year’s event will be a precursor to a future project the organization is developing to arrange more tours to Wulai for Taiwanese and foreigners to discover its local culture in a non-hyped-up touristy setting.

On the other hand, Coolidge adds, “our event adds a touch of international culture to the lives of local residents — it may help some children realize that there is a bigger world out there beyond Taiwan and inspire them in the future to go beyond the world they know.”

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