The Chinese city of Langfang near Beijing banned any public displays celebrating Christmas, including Christmas trees, lights, banners, and any “religious activities” in public in an attempt to win a Communist Party award for being “civilized,” state media reported on Monday.
The Chinese Communist Party has spent years attempting to dissuade the population from engaging in Christmas festivities, even more secular ones like displaying Christmas trees and exchanging gifts. The Communist Youth League has taken a particularly strident stance on Christmas, calling it “China’s day of shame” in propaganda messages last year and filling campuses with banners urging young Chinese people not to partake in celebrations.
The Global Times, a state newspaper, announced the decision of the Langfang government as an attempt to maintain a “clean environment,” suggesting that celebrating Christmas makes the city unclean. Citing the city’s Urban Management Bureau, the newspaper noted that businesses and residences face government retribution, without specifying in what form, if they “put up posters, banners or light boxes about Christmas sales.” The city has banned Christmas trees in any form and warned that police will work extra hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to keep street vendors from selling Christmas merchandise.
“City peddlers are forbidden from selling Christmas related items like Christmas apples [a common Chinese Christmas item], Santa costumes and stockings, or Christmas trees,” the Times warned.
The prohibition is not limited to material objects celebrating Christmas. “Outdoor performances to celebrate the holiday or promote sales are also prohibited,” the newspaper reported, as well as any overt religious worship in public. The city’s officials urge all local residents to “report” any public activity that appears religious in nature.
Langfang is reportedly attempting to win China’s “National Civilized City” award by enforcing its ban on Christmas, which the Global Times called the “highest honor to a city as it has strict standards in a variety of aspects, including the city’s social development, economy, infrastructure construction and public services.”