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Christmas in China brings glittering decor and foreign influence concerns

Beijing, China

Giant Christmas trees adorned with lights, tinsel and gift boxes greet shoppers at glittering malls in big Chinese cities like Shanghai and Chongqing, but in many parts of China, extending season’s greetings is out of the question. 

In southwest Yunnan province, a property management company issued a notice to shopping mall tenants urging them not to sell Christmas cards and presents and to even refrain from hanging decorations, saying foreign traditions should not be “blindly” followed, and one should be confident in one’s own culture.

A child holds a toy near a Christmas tree outside the South Cathedral, a Catholic church at Xuanwumen, on Christmas Eve in Beijing, China on 24th December, 2023

A child holds a toy near a Christmas tree outside the South Cathedral, a Catholic church at Xuanwumen, on Christmas Eve in Beijing, China on 24th December, 2023. PICTURE: Reuters/Florence Lo 

Schools in some cities from Dongguan in the south to Harbin in the north-east similarly called on students and parents not to follow foreign traditions and culture without thinking. 

In Gansu province in China’s north-west, a local branch of the Communist Youth League told its members to instead celebrate The Battle at Lake Changjin, a 2021 Chinese film depicting a fierce fight between the Chinese People’s Voluntary Army and US forces during the Korean War. 

China does not ban Christianity or forbid Christian worship, but like all permitted religions, it must be strictly managed and governed amid concern about “foreign influences”. 

Christmas Day is not a public holiday in mainland China, where Buddhism and Taoism are the major religions, with ancestral worship also a common practice. The ruling Communist Party is officially atheist. 

Wang Huning, the fourth-ranked member of the party’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee led by President Xi Jinping, told Christian groups last week to “adhere to the direction of the sinicisation of Christianity”.

“[We must] interpret the doctrines and rules in line with the requirements of contemporary China’s development and progress, core socialist values ​​​​and excellent Chinese traditions and culture,” said Wang, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency on Saturday. 

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Over the years, the Vatican has sparred with Beijing over China’s unilateral appointment of bishops in a country that has about 12 million Catholics. 

On Sunday, in Langfang, a city in Hebei province just south of Beijing, a post on social media platform X showed a cluster of police officers standing by a tall Christmas tree outside a church in a small county. 

“So scary,” the post said. 


In 2018, Langfang put a blanket ban on public displays for Christmas and the sale of items related to the holiday to “maintain social stability”.



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