Monday, 25 December 2017

China's Aversion to Christmas

Mainland Chinese don't really understand Christmas but find it a fun party
Over a week ago when I was talking to some mainland Chinese students in a Hong Kong shopping mall, they found the concept of Christmas really weird. They didn't understand the purpose of decorating trees and putting them inside, taking pictures with an elderly man with a white beard in a red suit, and what this had to do with a baby born in a barn.

It is an honest observation coming from people who grew up in a country that does not promote any kind of religion, Christianity being one of them.

While there are many Christians in Hong Kong, Christmas is very much a commercial event in the city, and it's a holiday everyone there has grown up with.

Over 3 million Christmas decorations were bought on Tmall
But in China, the Chinese government is going to great lengths to dissuade people from celebrating Christmas -- even though the country manufactures the most goods related to the holiday, from decorations to gifts.

About a week ago, members of the Communist Party's Youth League at the University of South China in Hunan province were asked to sign a code of conduct which told them not to participate in Christmas-related celebrations, according to a statement circulating on Weibo.

"Communist Party members must be role models in abiding to the faith of communism. [Members are] not allowed to have superstitions and blindly follow the opium of Western spirits," the statement said, which was signed off by the Youth League.

The memo also said party members would face disciplinary consequences if they or their direct relatives were found to be involved in religious activities on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Instead they were instructed to hold events to promote "patriotic and traditional Chinese culture".

Yawn. And what does that mean?

China supplies 60% of the world's plastic Christmas trees
That's the same sentiment a student had in Jiangsu province, whose university had also banned Christmas celebrations.

"I am not very convinced of the school's excuse. Nobody relates Christmas to Western ideologies. Now I may not party with my friends in the school's dorm because we are afraid there will be inspections," he said.

He also didn't know the relationship between Christmas and the Christian faith.

Its not just happening in Hunan and Jiangsu provinces, but also Liaoning and Shaanxi provinces, where people were banned from gathering for celebrations on December 24 and 25.

But commercially Chinese companies love Christmas. Over 600,000 Christmas trees and 3 million decorations were bought on T Mall, owned by Alibaba. China makes over 60 percent of the world's plastic Christmas trees.

What's wrong with Christmas with Chinese characteristics?
Liu Kaiming, head of the Institute of Contemporary Observation in Shenzhen, said he finds it absurd for local institutions to ban the celebration of Christmas because it is a "Western festival".

"To Chinese people, this festival is not much different to the Singles' Day on November 11, it's for shopping," he said.

"China has long been using a Western calendar. We celebrate the New Year, Labour Day, and Women's Day based on Western origins. Are we going to ban all of them?" he said.

"This is China's dilemma -- it is largely opened up to globalization now, but it also holds back from embracing full-scale globalization because of domestic politics," Liu continued.

"The recent political emphasis on the 'revitalization of Chinese culture' from officials may have prompted local units to use this season as a chance to show loyalty by following the party line."

This relates back to President Xi Jinping who expects all cadres to show unwavering loyalty to the Party.

It's not just Christianity under fire, but also Buddhism and feng shui -- there's only one thing to believe in -- the Party.

Now if only the Party had Christmas-like celebrations then maybe people would be more on board.


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