Atayal group marks Christmas holiday in Wulai

By Zane Kheir ,The China Post

A Christmas celebration was organized yesterday afternoon by the Atayal Organization in front of the Wulai Atayal Museum (�Q�Ӯ������ڳժ�) on the main street of the Aboriginal cultural hot spot. The event was hosted for the fourth year in a row by Gary Smoke as a charity event to donate candy and goodie bags to children of the Atayal community and put on a Christmas music performance to inspire Christmas spirit in the aboriginal neighborhood. Children also enjoyed an Atayal-style tattoo face painting activity that also included Christmas glitter. Children and local residents also received a surprise visit from Santa who handed out the candy and goodies. The Atayal Organization was founded by Tony Coolidge, a Taiwanese-American who was born to an Atayal mother from Wulai, who was out at the event with his wife and three children. After the passing of his mother, Coolidge came to Taiwan to explore his roots and was captivated by the deep culture and history of the area. Coolidge, who has now lived in Tainan for six years is an active member of the community and makes an effort to inform those in the United States about Taiwan and its rich culture. In addition, the organization also reaches out to Aboriginal communities in other nations for cultural exchange. According to Coolidge, the organization hosted a group of Maori natives from New Zealand last year and introduced them to indigenous communities of Taiwan.

Coolidge strongly believes in keeping the local language alive and noted that his children started taking Atayal language classes earlier this year. ��We come out and support this event because it is one of the only ways my kids and the local children can experience Christmas in Taiwan,�� stated Coolidge. Coolidge credited Smoke (or Santa) and the musicians he organized for doing a great job of introducing the Christmas spirit to local children.

With Santa’s goodie bags, children received special pairs of nylon pants produced by design students at Mingdao University (���D�j��) and donated by Mark Sussman, Manager of Chicago -based design firm Sussman International. Sussman stated that he works to connect students in Taiwan with design firms in the United States and supports local events like the one in Wulai as it is a great way for local and indigenous people to directly connect with people and cultures from abroad. Coolidge along with Sussman agreed that young people in Taiwan would benefit greatly from establishing connections overseas and broadening their horizons.