English Schools Should Have Christmas Off

By Mac Lee | Published 2015/12/22 3/5 (4) Posted in OPINION, READ

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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.

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*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.

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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?

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Author : Mac Lee

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  • ximendingdave

    Yes we should have Christmas off. but Taiwan schools typically want the dancing monkeys doing Christmas tricks on that day.

  • James Wong

    English teachers at HESS had xmas off.

  • Woolalove

    This, as I expect you already know, absolutely reeks of entitlement. I can’t imagine there are many foreign teachers who were forced against their will to find employment in Taiwan, to support their families back home. It is nonsense like this that gives such teachers their terrible reputation. If you miss your family, go home. If you have family here, presumably they have to work/go to school, so who do you intend to celebrate with? You can make a Skype call before or after work, depending on what timezone they happen to be in. I’m a foreigner in Taiwan, and I’d rather work a month of Christmases back-to-back than speak to another self-absorbed English teacher who expects Taiwan to bow down to their every whim.

  • Amy

    I am going to have to disagree with this as well. I share Chris’s thoughts that your arguments are weak. You make too many assumptions to argue in your favor.

    Taiwanese people, for the most part, don’t recognize the importance of Christmas. Christmas decorations are not a symbolic declaration for this fact. Take a look around your residential neighborhood or in smaller cities around Taiwan. Go ask your Taiwanese friends and coworkers about what they think about Christmas. Christmas is symbolic in a marketing and commercial sense and not in a cultural sense for the majority of the population here, which again you so boldly claim is “a huge cultural significance regardless of its religious foundations”.

    I think this article is some mutated form of a letter you wanted to write (or cry about) to your employer.

    Taipei Trends, do better.

  • Chris

    I am going to have to disagree with this. Though it would be great to have Christmas off, I mean who doesn’t want an extra day off, I think your argument is weak. Having to work on special days is just part of being an adult. Aside from the, we made the choice to move here so we must follow their customs argument, there are other factors to consider.

    You say that we, teachers, are a very important and a substantial industry in Taiwan. I do not disagree with our importance as I am a proud and dedicated teacher. I do think, however, that you are making a bigger deal of the English teaching business than it really is. This is not just in numbers of foreign employees but also in national importance. If you take into account the number of foreign nationals from Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand who work in health care and infrastructure development it dwarfs the comparatively small number of white collar foreign workers in the education field. (https://www.immigration.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=1309103&ctNode=29986&mp=2) Basically, what I am saying is that we are not the only ones here missing our family on special holidays but if Taiwan took all of those holidays into account the economic loss in productivity would be astounding.

    Then, of course there is the, why us and not everyone argument. You can’t make it mandatory for one group of people, based on religion or nationality, to have more holidays than others. That is just discriminatory.

    I guess what I am saying is, yes, I would love the day off but I know that won’t happen as it is not culturally significant here. My school gives me a half day of classes and then cooks us a Christmas lunch. It is very nice of them and much appreciated. I like your idea but unless it becomes a national holiday again, for everyone in Taiwan, then we will be working on Christmas for the foreseeable future (except next year as it lands on a Saturday). Merry Christmas everyone!

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