Yesterday (Saturday) the population of our town here temporarily swelled to 10 or 20 times (at least) its normal size. That's because everyone came over to celebrate. The official celebration was over at the temple (one of the largest temples in all of Taiwan for the god/general Guangong). When I drove by there last night, there were all kind of vendors selling their wares that are not there during the normal night market, and easily a thousand people milling around.
Most people, however, seemed to have enjoyed their feasts at home. They didn't bother with the temple, just as on the 4th of July a lot of folks back home enjoy their barbecue but don't fight against the crowd by going to see the fireworks. Other folks simply closed their iron doors a few hours early without participating in festivities either at the temple or in front of their house on the street.
Lots of families ordered tables and chairs which are delivered to their home, after which they set them up on the street. Neighbors to my left enjoyed a big meal and polished it off with several liters of Taiwan beer. They probably played Mahjiang until the early hours of the morning after that since it is their regular weekend recreational custom, but I didn't notice. My other neighbors finished their dinner much earlier as they were already nearly cleaned up when I got home around 8:30.
As for me, in addition to receiving several plates of food from the neighbors who finished early above, I was also invited by the mother of two of the kids I teach English to for free every Saturday to join them outside their home. Neither I nor any of my neighbors had ever meet the father, though the mother and daughters come over to my neighbor's nearly every day and live just one block away.
When I arrived 5 minute before the appointed time, the oldest daughter greeted me with enthusiastically with: "Why are you here so early?" How's that for a welcome? But as a result of going over I was able to spend a couple of hours chatting with the father. When I asked if he was ever over on our side of the neighborhood, he said he often drinks tea over at his friend's who keeps all the drums over at his house. God has a sense of humor.... this is the same place that I mentioned in an recent post where all the stray youth are hanging out every day and night-- other neighbors have warned me plainly to stay away from them. I guess God has another plan. May the God of Jesus Christ give me grace and wisdom for the future.
I also visited with my host's sisters (who had both come down from Taipei for the day) and later with several of his other friends who came over from other villages and townships. While we were eating, two people walked by at different times collecting offerings which I assume were for the temple. One lady was ringing a bell and the other person came over in the garb of a god, big head and all. The people I was with just ignored them both so I'm not really sure what the deal was. I guess it's easier for the person wearing the god outfit to get rejected like this since no one can actually see his/her face!
It was truly a sumptuous feast and I thanked my hosts profusely. As the drinking started to pick up among the men I excused myself to make another quick run by the temple on my scooter.