NATIONAL NEWS

Santa Gets Pushed Out As China’s Leaders Emphasize Tradition

Dec 24, 2018, 8:02 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:16 pm

BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 18: People stand and watch a large screen as President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at a grand gathering to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up in Beijing on December 18, 2018 in Harbin, China. At least four Chinese cities and one county have ordered restrictions on Christmas celebrations this year, according to official notices and interviews. (Photo by Tao Zhang/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tao Zhang/Getty Images)

SHANGHAI (AP) — It took less than 24 hours for all the Christmas trees, lights and bells to disappear from a 27-story shopping and office complex in the Chinese city of Nanyang.

Even the giant teddy bear at the mall entrance wasn’t spared, said Ma Jun, who works at a tutoring company in the building.

“Everything is gone and cleaned,” she said.

Christmas continues to be a shopping festival across most of China, with huge trees adorning shopping malls in Shanghai and Beijing, but a growing emphasis on traditional culture by the ruling Communist Party and the systematic suppression of religion under President Xi Jinping are imperiling Santa Claus’s position.

At least four Chinese cities and one county have ordered restrictions on Christmas celebrations this year, according to official notices and interviews. Students, teachers and parents from 10 schools around China told The Associated Press that Christmas celebrations have been curtailed.

“The ongoing local reaction against Christmas is part of the wider sentiment since Xi took power,” said Zi Yang, a China expert at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

Xi is trying to broaden the appeal of the Communist Party by casting it as a crusader for Chinese tradition in a fast-changing world, he said. “Therefore, foreign cultural elements such as Christmas are placed on the chopping block.”

The seasonal humbug follows similar outbreaks of anti-Christmas rhetoric in 2014 and 2017. It appears not to be centrally organized, but rather a spreading resistance to foreign festivals by local authorities seeking to align themselves with the growing tide of cultural nationalism.

The squeeze on Christmas is an example of how efforts to “normalize” thinking bleed into the everyday lives of many Chinese. That push exploded into view this year through re-education camps for Uighur Muslims and a crackdown on Christian churches that has continued with force in recent weeks.

In Nanyang, about 950 kilometers (600 miles) west of Shanghai, government officials stopped by the office and shopping complex on Dec. 16 to say that Christmas decorations would have to come down, said Ma, the tutoring company employee.

An official from the city’s urban management bureau hung up when asked for comment.

Nine hours by car south, Hengyang, a city in Hunan province, said in a Dec. 19 notice posted on an official government social media account that anyone caught holding Christmas sales or celebrations that blocked the streets would be punished. Communist Party members, the notice said, should avoid foreign festivals and instead be “models of adherence to Chinese traditional culture.” Hengyang police posted a video on their official social media account of locals discussing the importance of Chinese culture and plans to avoid ostentatious Christmas celebrations.

Langfang city, just south of Beijing, banned Christmas stage performances and merchandising promotions, according to a notice circulated on social media.

Shop windows were to be stripped of Christmas stickers and streets kept free of Christmas banners and lights. Law enforcement patrols were to be stepped up Dec. 23-25 to prevent illegal signs of celebration.

The Langfang urban management bureau declined comment. The state-run Global Times newspaper argued that Western media are exaggerating China’s crackdown on Christmas and reported that the restrictions in Langfang were aimed not at Christmas but at cleaning up roadside stalls and migrant vendors in hopes of winning a “National Civilized City” award from the Communist Party.

Some 270 kilometers (167 miles) west, Fuping county, also in Hebei province, issued a similar clean-up notice. Though the Dec. 21 announcement mentions Christmas eleven times, an official from the Fuping urban management bureau said the rules were aimed at street vendors generally, not Christmas.

Police in the Panlong district of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in southern China, circulated a notice that hotels, karaoke parlors, internet cafes, bars and other crowded places must prohibit Christmas-related decorations and activities.

“It is forbidden to hang Christmas stockings, wear Christmas hats, place Christmas trees, and so on,” the notice read.

It wasn’t clear if the notice applied to all of Kunming city, though a police officer told the AP that the order to circulate it came from city officials.

Reverend Jonathan Liu, founder of the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness, a California nonprofit, said the pushback against Christmas reflects Xi’s efforts to “Sinicize” religion.

Preachers are coached on how to convey Communist Party core values in their sermons and national flags and songs have been injected into some church services, he said.

Liu provided the AP with a notice sent to churches in Zhoukou, a city to the east of Nanyang in Henan province.

It tells churches to vet Christmas plans with the government, forbids minors from participating in Christmas events and caps expenses at 2000 yuan ($290). “I wish you all a happy Christmas! God bless you,” read the notice, which Liu received from a pastor in China.

An official at the United Front Work Department in Zhoukou referred queries to the religious affairs bureau, which could not be reached for comment.

Before becoming president, Xi went to Finland in 2010 and was photographed with Santa Claus. That kind of chumminess appears to be a thing of Christmas past, experts say.

The central government issued guidelines last year for a cultural revival project that calls for a marked boost in the international influence of Chinese traditional culture by 2025.

“You have a culturally conservative ethos in the country that has definitely been encouraged by the central party-state,” said Guo Yingjie, a professor of Chinese studies at the University of Sydney. “It’s not hard for university presidents or officials to say, ‘OK celebrating Christmas can easily be seen as de-Sinification or promoting Western culture.'”

Students have taken to social media to complain about restrictions on Christmas celebrations at their schools.

At a top Shanghai university, a student union had its Christmas plans cancelled for the first time, an organizer told the AP on condition of anonymity, fearing rebuke.

The students came up with a solution: By replacing “Christmas” with “New Year’s” in their activity proposal and changing the date from Dec. 25, it sailed past school administrators.

Students in the city of Qingdao were reprimanded for hosting an event about gratitude on Thanksgiving Day and warned not to celebrate Christmas publicly, according to a student, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution.

Liu Kaiming, president of the Institute of Contemporary Observation, a civil society group in the city of Shenzhen, said that despite the drumbeat of official discontent, Christmas cheer continues to spread in China.

“The sound of resistance is more powerful on the surface, but it has no practical effect,” he said. “Young people’s enthusiasm for the festival is ever-increasing.”

___

Associated Press researcher Chen Si contributed to this report from Shanghai.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

FILE - This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, and partially...

Eric Tucker, Adriana Gomez Licon and Freida Frisaro

Judge in Trump’s classified documents case is expected to set a trial date during a crucial hearing

The federal judge overseeing the classified documents prosecution of Donald Trump is expected to set a trial date.

1 hour ago

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced February 29 that Heritage Store Hydrogen Peroxide ...

John Towfighi, CNN

Mouthwash recalled nationwide over poisoning risk

One brand of hydrogen peroxide mouthwash is being recalled nationwide for posing a potential poisoning risk for children.

12 hours ago

NORTH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 10: Ballots are processed by an election worker at the Clark Cou...

Gabe Stern, Associated Press/Report for America

Nevada county election official in charge of controversial 2022 hand-count plan resigns

A Nye County spokesperson says top elections official Mark Kampf is resigning.

12 hours ago

Protesters gathered outside the Alabama State House in Montgomery in the wake of the IVF ruling on ...

Devon M. Sayers, Shirin Faqiri and Eric Levenson, CNN

Alabama House and Senate approve bills aimed at protecting in vitro fertilization after personhood ruling

The Alabama House and Senate each passed bills Thursday aimed at protecting in vitro fertilization treatments .

16 hours ago

FILE: Vivint Doorbell Camera (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)...

Haleluya Hadero, AP Business Writer

Some doorbell cameras sold on Amazon and other online sites have major security flaws, report says

Consumer Reports says some doorbell cameras sold by Amazon and other online retailers have security flaws that could allow bad actors to view footage from the devices or control them completely.

17 hours ago

Oprah Winfrey...

Jordan Valinsky, CNN

Oprah is leaving WeightWatchers, sending stock tumbling

Oprah Winfrey is leaving the board of WeightWatchers, ending a nearly decade-long stint as a director of the beleaguered company that has faced sudden competition from Ozempic.

18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Santa Gets Pushed Out As China’s Leaders Emphasize Tradition