Just as Americans are getting ready for the big event, cities in China are being forced to remove decorations and cancel celebrations as part of the government’s crackdown on Christmas. Local authorities in at least four cities forbid citizens from celebrating the holiday this year as part of President Xi Jinping’s renewed focus on promoting traditional Chinese culture, according to the Independent.
Like much of the world, China doesn’t officially recognize Christmas as a public holiday, but that doesn’t stop businesses from using the event to promote shopping, with massive decorations and holidays sales across the country’s shopping malls.
Recently, however, President Xi Jinping’s Communist Party has been pushing back against the encroachment of foreign culture, which has included recent raids on underground Christian churches. As part of that movement, local governments ordered Christmas decorations removed and celebrations canceled.
In Nanyang, a 27-story commercial complex was forced to remove their Christmas tree and decorations. In nearby Hengyang, the government warned that anyone holding holiday sales or hosting Christmas celebrations that impeded traffic would face legal consequences.
Meanwhile, in Langfang in Hebei province, officials ordered all Christmas decor taken down from shops and any stores selling Christmas items were forced to remove them from shelves. The city government claimed this was necessary to prevent street vendors and to maintain stability in the area.
In Panlong, police hung notices warning patrons of bars and hotels that “[i]t is forbidden to hang Christmas stockings, wear Christmas hats, place Christmas trees, and so on.”
In Huangshan in Anhui province, teachers and students were reminded not to attend parties or give teachers apples, which is a traditional Christmas gift from students to teachers. Instead, teachers were told to focus on Chinese culture and teach students to reject foreign holidays.
Supporters say that the crackdown isn’t necessarily about Christian religious traditions, but about promoting Chinese culture. The Chinese Communist party is officially atheist. But not everyone supports the government’s hardline stance.
“Many other countries have already accepted China’s spring festival, which is reported in China as a victory of cultural export. By that logic, there should be no problem with Christmas in China,” said Wuyue Sanren, a popular Chinese commentator. “It’s an issue of cultural confidence. As long as we are confident about our culture, we won’t be afraid of your ‘western festivals.’ If it’s fun, we’ll accept it.”
This isn’t the first year local governments have cracked down on Christmas. Celebrations in 2014 and 2017 saw similar actions. It doesn’t appear that the anti-Christmas sentiment is directed by China’s government, but rather by local governments attempting to support the Communist Party’s stance.