As Christmas this year falls on a Friday, large numbers of English teachers around Taiwan will head into work on what is one of the most important holidays in their home countries. They will go about business as usual, and if not, they are probably busy putting together Christmas-themed events to help impart the significance of the holiday to their Taiwanese students. While this is a noble pursuit and it isn’t an official holiday in Taiwan, it’s time to ask that English schools give their teachers the day off on Christmas.
It’s true – to most Taiwanese people Christmas is a fun distraction and an excuse to be festive while not really affecting their day-to-day lives. Chinese New Year is just a month away and is the most significant family holiday, considering our location. But not all workers in Taiwan are Taiwanese, and an entire industry is largely dependent on educated foreign workers from countries where Christmas is a big deal. Considering the work these individuals put into not just teaching English, but also educating about western culture and traditions, giving them a single day off on the most important holiday in the western world is hardly asking too much.
While most foreign teachers will put on their game face and go in and do their usual wonderful work at their schools, many of these workers will feel a tinge of sentimentality and wish they were at home or with friends and family, even if that only means a Skype phone call. Even to non-Christian westerners, the day has special significance – it holds huge cultural significance regardless of its religious foundations, and even the most stoic of foreign residents deserves to celebrate.
*All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of Taipei Trends 😉
Furthermore, many teachers already take time off at this time of year, leading to scheduling difficulties for schools and extra work for both foreign and local teachers who have to pick up the slack. Why not just make it easy on everyone involved and take the day off? It wouldn’t be particularly difficult to do, especially if students and their families were notified at the beginning of the academic term. And Taiwan has a history of Christmas being a national holiday anyway, and still technically is as “Constitution Day”. There are plenty of reasons to give workers, especially teachers from English speaking countries, the day off to call home, be with friends or family, and celebrate in their own way and not have to worry about work.
Perhaps you’re not convinced. “Wait!” you say, “Christmas isn’t a holiday in Taiwan, so why should teachers get special treatment?” Because the entire English learning industry, which is obviously large and important in Taiwan, is reliant on individuals for whom Christmas has value. If these teachers aren’t already taking time off, they probably would like to, and acknowledging the significance of their cultural traditions even while living in Taiwan is worthwhile. Clearly Taiwanese people recognize the importance of Christmas already – Christmas displays are up all over the island and seasonal events are ubiquitous, and not all of them are commercial in nature. Given the universal appreciation of Christmas, it’s not out of question to give people the day off.
Still, some may argue that not all westerners are Christian or celebrate Christmas. This is true, but not all Taiwanese people are Daoist, nor do they all acknowledge the primacy of the lunar calendar, but no one is calling for Chinese New Year to be cancelled.
But what about Jewish or Muslim teachers, you may ask. Don’t they deserve time off to observe their holidays? They certainly do, and it is reasonable that they should take time off to celebrate and that employers respect their needs. But the majority of foreign teachers, religious or otherwise, celebrate Christmas, meaning a majority of teachers could use the day off. So why don’t we follow the lead of the many schools that already cancel class on the 25th and give it to them?