While I've been here in Taiwan, I've discovered that we have come in time to experience a few Taiwanese holidays. First of all, going by their lunar calendar, we have come during "Ghost Month." I'm not all that sure what ghost month all entails, but I found out a few key points. One, the air constantly smells of insence and burning paper no matter where you go. I've been told that it is because it is custom to pray to the ghosts and that by burning paper, it is a way of protecting yourself from the evil ones. Also, I've been warned that you are not, under any circumstance, WHISTLE at any point this month because it 'summons' them! There are many rules and regulations to ghost month, many of which I am learning through mistakes. My students are usually the first to stop me in my tracks, "NO! Don't do that! It's ghost month! Do you want to be haunted until September?" "Oops, my bad. Sorry guys."
Since Taiwan goes by a lunar calendar instead of our standard 12-month block of 365 days, I've celebrated two other big holidays here. On August 7th, we celebrated the lunar Valentine's Day. My students told me the short version of their Valentine's Day history. Apparently, there is a fairy on the moon that came to Earth and fell in love with a human man. But she only could stay one day. So every year, the stars align to build a bridge so the fairy can get back to Earth to be with the man she loves. I hate to admit it fellow Americans, but I think I like their Valentine's Day history better than ours!
On August 8th, we celebrated not only the opening of the Olympics (which I got to watch LIVE) but also Father's Day! Again, I asked my students why Father's day is different here. 8 is the Taiwanese lucky number (like 7 in the US) and the pronunciation of the number 8 is something that sounds like 'pop'. So August 8th, "pop-pop" sounds like their word for Father.
A little side-note: Along with having a lucky number (8), Taiwan also has a bad-luck number...4. I heard that important buildings, especially hospitals, do not even have a fourth floor! It goes, 1,2,3,5, 6, etc.