Workers move a Santa Claus figure outside a club in Beijing on Christmas Eve on Wednesday. The Western festival has exploded in the officially atheist nation in recent years, with marketers using everything from saxophones and Smurfs to steam trains to get shoppers to open their wallets. Photo: AFP
Schools in Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, have been forbidden from holding any Christmas-related events this year, according to a notice released by the city's education authorities.
The notice said the ban on Christmas events covers all high schools, middle schools, primary schools and kindergartens.
Several schools in Wenzhou reached by the Global Times confirmed that they have received the notice.
An official from the local bureau of education said it is the first time the city has issued an official ban. They hope schools can pay more attention to Chinese traditional festivals instead of Western traditions, the Wenzhou Evening Post reported.
Wenzhou has been for years a hub of Christian missionary activities. The city is home for roughly a million Christians, according to previous reports.
"We are not suppressing Western festivals, but we hope schools can be more balanced on this. Students can learn about Western festivals but they should not be over-enthusiastic about it," he said.
The official said traditional festivals such as Winter Solstice, which fell on Monday of this week, are more worth celebrating.
A Weibo user from Zhejiang Province said the policy should be spread to other cities in China so that students can keep Chinese traditional festivals in mind.
In a separate case, students from Xi'an-based Northwest University were required to watch Confucius-themed documentaries every Christmas Eve, The Beijing News newspaper reported on Wednesday.
A photo online showed a banner on campus that read "Be good sons and daughters of your country, stand against Western holidays."
A student told The Beijing News that teachers would guard the classroom doors and "punish anyone trying to leave the room."
Christmas has become increasingly popular in China in recent years. Christmas carols and Christmas decorations have become relatively common sights on the streets of large cities.
The holiday was even celebrated in western China's Qinghai Province. A villager from the suburbs of Golmud, Qinghai Province said they prepared dance performance and mini-dramas this year, and bought Christmas hats, masks, and presents.
The ban on Christmas events came on the heels of a series of conflicts between Zhejiang Christians and authorities this year, as the local government tried to demolish churches and crosses that violated construction standards.
A church in Yongjia county, Wenzhou was nearly torn down earlier this year. The authority said the building was not built lawfully and was in violation of construction regulations. The church was eventually saved after a series of negotiations in April.