Like most other events attracting large crowds of visitors, the tens of thousands of visitors pouring into the villages on Christmas Eve also had some negative impact.
“I noticed there is a lot of trash on the ground,” one storeowner in Wanjin said. “Plus, when you have so many people here, you would expect that your business would grow, but it’s not the case because most of the hundreds of stalls are from other places.”
Wanjin Village Chief Pan Jung-hsin (潘榮信) agreed that the overwhelming crowds and the street vendors have tarnished the sanctity of the religious event.
“We certainly welcome everyone to come here to share our joy, and we also welcome vendors from anywhere to come and make some money,” he said. “However, whether you are here as a visitor or a vendor, you must bear in mind that this is a religious event and religious factors should always be kept as the core of the event.”
For example, some vendors have wanted to set up their stalls right at the front gate of the basilica, he said.
“We asked them to move elsewhere, but they refused and had a fight with us,” he said. “Although they eventually moved away because we insisted, incidents like these are really troubling.”
According to Pan Jung-hsin, visitors in the past were amazed by the Christmas decorations outside houses in the village, but the decorations are less visible now because street vendors’ booths have blocked the view of most of the houses there.
He called on the county government to put more effort into managing the event, rather than just promoting it.
“I’m happy to see so many people enjoy taking part in our Christmas celebrations, and I’m equally happy to see our village becoming more visible through the events,” he said. “With more communication [with the county government] on how to better manage the vendors, I believe the event will improve every year.”