For many living in the West, Christmas is one of the most important days of the year. A time to get together with family and friends, exchange gifts and eat a hearty meal, the occasion has become as much about sharing and giving as it is about observing a religious ceremony. For the Taiwanese, however, Christmas is much ignored. While Christmas carols do find their way onto public transport, and department stores do put up tinsel, people continue to attend work and school during the Christmas period and all shops stay open. Instead, the Taiwan』s major holiday comes later, during the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). At this time, the Taiwanese head home for at least a week long celebration of family and friends.
But for those who have grown up excitedly opening the little pockets on their advent calendar in the lead up to December 25th, the anti-climax of spending Christmas in Asia can be a strange experience. For some, it can even be a time of loneliness and sadness, when special people back home are missed more than usual. So we』ve compiled the following advice for how to make your Christmas in Taiwan really special this year. While some of the ideas below are about recreating a western style Christmas in Asia, other ideas are uniquely Taiwanese. Either way, with our help, you are guaranteed to have a memorable and merry Christmas in Taiwan this year.
Where to Stay
Where to stay during the Christmas period is one of your most important decisions. Do you choose a European style Christmas? Or would you prefer the best that Taiwanese style architecture has to offer?
Europe in Taiwan
For those wanting a European experience for Christmas in Taiwan this year, Sigma Castle is a brilliant choice. Located in Yuanshan, Yilan County, and offering a luxurious fully western style breakfast, this place lends itself to princess-like fairy-tale Christmas. http://www.rtaiwanr.com/yilan/sigma-castle
Old England, located on the road up to Cingjing Farm, is one of the most luxurious (and expensive) Bed & Breakfasts in Taiwan. This is an English-style mansion, with sculptures, lanterns and furniture that have been imported from England itself. And because this is one of the only places in Taiwan where it actually snows, this is the perfect backdrop to a Taiwanese 「White Christmas」!
從台中開往清境的路上，你不可能錯過這個醒目又優雅的建築 – 老英格蘭，大概是全台灣最昂貴的民宿了。其古典的英式風格，在裡面閒晃，隨處可看到進口的雕塑、吊燈、傢具等，讓你不管在這用餐還是睡覺，就好像身在歐洲一般。
The Best of Taiwanese Hotels
Kenting』s Gloria Manor is a historic gem hidden away in the Kenting Forest Recreation Area. This is the place where Chiang Kai-shek used to stay, and the chairs, bed and tables that he used have all been preserved beautifully. The hotel today is stylish and somehow very Taiwanese, with bamboo domes a feature of the main hall. The outdoor pool reflects the scenery of the distant Dajianshan, and the food is local and high quality. This is a truly special place to relax over Christmas. http://www.rtaiwanr.com/kenting/gloria-manor
Lishan Guest House in Hehuanshan is the highest palace style hotel in Taiwan, and, like Gloria Manor, is a historic treasure that houses many of the belongings of Chiang Kai-shek and his wife. The view here is famous for its high altitude and changes according to the season. Olive trees and cedar trees line the footpath to the entrance, and the wildlife is tangible. This is another great option for a luxurious Christmas at a more affordable price than other places.
The Grand Hotel in Taipei is an imposing traditional Taiwanese building perched on a hillside. Today a treasured icon of the Taipei skyline, Christmas here will make you feel like a celebrity. Indeed, a wander down the hotel』s Wall of Fame, and you will find yourself in the company of Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Grace Kelly. Come here for a star-struck Christmas!
The Lalu overlooking Sun Moon Lake is a luxury hotel experience with views that make its hefty price-tag absolutely worth it. Widely agreed to be the best place to view one of Taiwan』s most famous tourist attractions, the lake is also visible from the rooms. The interior style here is Zen-inspired, so expect a meditative Christmas at The Lalu. http://www.rtaiwanr.com/sun-moon-lake/the-lalu
Where to Go
How to make Christmas Day special is something many ask themselves every year. In Taiwan you can choose between a White Christmas, a Summer Hemisphere Christmas or even celebrate Christmas by participating in Taiwan』s Aboriginal culture!
Hehuanshan is a great choice if you are looking for a White Christmas this year. A pilgrimage for Taiwanese wanting to experience snow, it really does look a lot like Christmas here! http://www.rtaiwanr.com/hehuanshan/above-the-clouds
King Garden, located in Nantou County, could almost be Santa』s elf factory in the North Pole! A great place to wander around, there are many quirks up for discovery here, such as a fantastical chess board, a colourful train and Cinderella like carriages. The unexpectedness of this place somehow gives it the atmosphere of Christmas. (This is also a great stop on the way to Sun Moon Lake!)
If Christmas is all about parties for you, then the Tamsui Ferry may be a good option. Contact us about renting the entire boat for you and your friends for a Christmas to remember. Otherwise, if you are content to just enjoy the water views, the ferry is also a great option for sitting back and enjoying the scenery. If you are willing to fork out a little more, go for the Great River Queen cruise, a TWD150 million cruise ship which lights up the Tamsui River by night.
If you are interested in learning about indigenous culture in Taiwan, the Puyuma Monkey Hunting Festival, held around the period between Christmas and New Year, is a great option. This festival has a long history. Originally, real monkeys used to be hunted as a rite of passage for young people. By hunting monkeys courage would be nurtured and the rich history and culture of the tribe would be experienced. Nowadays, hunting real monkeys is illegal, so grass monkeys are hunted instead.
If you think the most important part of Christmas is snuggling up with your lover (as many of the Taiwanese do!), why not choose a beautiful view to admire the Christmas Eve night-scape together? As the lights of the city spread out before you, it is just like being at a Christmas lights show. We recommend Kaohsiung』s Martyr』s Shrine for a beautiful view over the city, Mitaka 3e Café night-viewing café for Taichung
, and Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan) , or Yangmingshan for Taipei
其中，我們推薦高雄的忠烈祠、台中的Mitaka 3e Café、台北的象山步道、以及陽明山的草山夜未眠。
Where to Worship
If you would like to engage with the religious meaning of Christmas and worship in a church, there are many beautiful options to choose from all over Taiwan. And even if you are religious, you might like to visit some of them to sing some Christmas carols or appreciate the Christmas lights at the many events held around this time of year.
Designed by I. M. Pei, the designer of the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, Tunghai University』s Luce Memorial Chapel is an excellent choice for those who would like to attend a carol service and hear the Christmas bells ring on Christmas Eve.
The Kaohsiung Holy Rosary Cathedral Minor Basilica is a beautiful place to worship in southern Taiwan. This cathedral also holds many events to honor the religious meaning of Christmas.
Wanjing Catholic Church in Pingtung County is Taiwan』s oldest church, having been established by a Philippine priest during the Qing dynasty. Every year, a huge Christmas tree and festive crowds make this a worthwhile Christmas pilgrimage for locals and tourists alike. Festive activities from early December until Christmas Day are particularly abundant and varied here.
Where to go for Christmas spirit
The lights and decorations is half the fun at Christmastime. Never fear, Taiwan has some wonderful locations perfect for experiencing the festive cheer.
Taipei 101 features a beautifully lit up four storey high Christmas tree every year. The names of major world cities are written on the floor, making it a great photo opportunity to pose next to your hometown! http://www.rtaiwanr.com/taipei-city/taipei-101
Wander around the Xinyi District』s department stores to experience the lights and decorations that make Christmas so special back home. http://www.rtaiwanr.com/taipei-city/xinyi-commercial-district
Go to Zhongshan MRT (中山捷運) station』s Mitsukoshi (新光三越) to see a giant Santa Claus climbing the chimney!
From November 20th 2015 to January 3rd 2016, the only 360 degrees 3D projector light show is coming to Taipei for Christmas. Visit Banqiao Station every day from 5.30pm to 10.30pm to experience an avenue of Christmas lights, or on the 21st November and 22nd November between 1pm to 8pm for a festive carnival.
Where to eat
If you are looking for a traditional western style Christmas roast dinner then Shangri-La』s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel Taipei, Sheraton Hotel Taipei or the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei are all hotels to consider. But they』re the obvious choices. Check out our list of the Top 10 western style restaurants in Taiwan. Or what about something a little more out of the way altogether….?
If you』re used to a southern-hemisphere Christmas, head to B&Q and buy a BBQ for a traditional (winter) summer cook-up. We recommend Hualien』s Shitiping as a great spot for some serious barbecuing. Best of all, it is also one of the best and most affordable campsites in Taiwan. http://www.rtaiwanr.com/east-coast/shitiping
If you want to experience a BBQ Christmas but can』t be bothered doing it yourself, why not head over to Hualien』s Salt Lick? Selling the best ribs in Taiwan, the western owner of this joint observes important calendar dates to a tee. Expect a great Christmas atmosphere here. http://www.rtaiwanr.com/hualien-city/salt-lick
If you agree with us that one of Taiwan』s biggest attractions is its food, then why not go for some Taiwanese fare this Christmas. Night markets are a great option for those who can』t choose between all the yummy options on offer because you can wander and eat as you go. Check out our 「Top 10 Night Markets in Taipei」 for some inspiration. A Christmas at a night market makes for an unforgettable one!
Otherwise, check out our 「Top 10 Taiwanese Style Restaurants in Taiwan」 for some inspiration about where in Taiwan the local food is definitely up to Christmas standard.
Where to Drink
Taiwan more than makes up for its lack of mulled wine by having the best whiskey in the world, made at its first and only distillery, the Kavalan Whiskey Distillery. Located in Yilan County, this distillery has been winning awards for years. But its 2015 World Whiskies Award is surely the jewel in its crown.