2019 Spring Taiwan Temple Exchange Thomas Kuklinski

Christmas Traditions: A Reflection

While I was in the States, I had somewhat of a passive attitude towards Christmas. I would help my dad cook. I would help my mom decorate the house. I would show up to Christmas parties and buy the occasional gift. But it never was a priority for me. Christmas would go on with or without me, so I just kinda went with it.

As I got older, I developed a jaded attitude towards Christmas. I made  “woke millennial” critiques of the holiday, such as: “I dunno man, but the idea of needing to buy someone a gift just kinda seems insincere… right?”  or “I’m not even sure why I’m doing this, I don’t really believe in all this stuff, anyway,” or “the commodification of Christmas is just feeding into the capitalist machine…and don’t even get me started on the environmental impact of cutting down Christmas trees and importing poinsettias to cold climates.”

But this year, there was nothing around me to critique. Christmas didn’t really happen in Taipei, it was just December. There were no Christmas lights or pine tree salesmen. It really didn’t even get cold. And I missed Christmas. I didn’t miss everything about it, but it’s the culture I grew up in; I realized that despite its faults it’s important enough to me that I want to keep Christmas going.

I only gave two people gifts this year, my close friend and a classmate, and they were small meaningful gifts. I bought my first Christmas decoration –it’s a poinsettia– but it was grown in a farm about two hours outside of Taipei and now I keep it as a houseplant. And I hosted my own Christmas party. Some friends came over and we all made traditional Christmas food from back home, drank beer, and tried to forget we had class the next day. It was similar to my Christmases back home, but it felt… right.

Just an FYI, the poinsettia as the featured image is this poinsettia two months later. After full bloom poinsettias need to go into a resting phase which is why it looks so sad. I know how to take care of my plants, I promise.
Pierogi and a tie-dye shirt. Merry Christmas.

I realized that even though there are parts of my culture that I don’t like, I won’t change things by withdrawing or complaining, I can change things by being active, by taking things into my own hands. It was empowering to feel connected to my family and my culture. To still maintain my autonomy and make traditions better was special.

Our cultures are something that we should maintain and value. They shape our identity and how we perceive the world, they make us unique and connect us to our ancestors. Sure, there are dated or uncomfortable aspects, but part of maintaining a culture is to reinterpret these problematic parts into something that is meaningful. I had a nice Christmas. I hope you did too.

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