Christmas in China

China has been red, politically, since 1949. And over the past decade in December urban centers in China literally become red.

Walk down a busy Beijing street in December and it’s like you’re in the US: wreaths adorn storefronts, tinsel hangs from doorways, and red ribbons perch atop oversized present displays, promising holiday cheer. In shops, buyers purchase Holy Apples for their children and paper lanterns to decorate the home.

With the Communist party in power, China has no official state religion and the majority of Chinese people are atheist. Christmas isn’t recognized as a “government” or “religious” holiday, and only in a few places is it technically a “public holiday.” As a result, Christmas celebrations in China have been stripped of their religious underpinnings. This directly opposes the sentiment behind Christmas, which Christians celebrate as “the day [that the] Christ was born.” In Hong Kong, a former colony of Western powers, Christmas is celebrated as a public holiday despite the general public not being Christian. It seems historical development plays a role. But on the whole, China’s political history defies this idea.

After the Communist party took control, China’s government attempted to shelter the country from foreign influence. For decades, Christians in China (~2%) weren’t permitted to openly celebrate Christmas for fear of government intervention. Especially during the 20th century, Christmas began representing a very capitalist, Christian holiday – wholly non-Chinese, which the Communist Party saw as an intrusion upon their customs.

One sneaking culprit for supporting the Christmas spirit is offspring. With information and pictures readily available (despite censorship) on the Internet and in the media, children in China have started realizing that kids in other countries are getting presents for the holiday. Parents don’t want their children to feel neglected, and thus purchase gifts.

Considering the importance of lineage and family in Chinese culture, a time dedicated to cherishing their company is eagerly accepted. And who doesn’t love receiving gifts, capitalist conspiracy or otherwise.