Christmas is celebrated in China, but excessive commercialization is curbed

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/23 19:08:40

It may be the media's natural instinct to exaggerate news stories to attract more eyeballs. But when it comes to Christmas in China, Western media have apparently gone too far. After seeing a prefecture-level city in the country issue a notice banning street vendors from selling Christmas decorations, quite a few Western media hyped it as China's "religious crackdown."

Earlier this month, the urban management bureau of Langfang, Hebei Province, declared a ban on Christmas elements along the streets, especially roadside stalls and migrant vendors selling relevant products. Admittedly, the ban sounds rigid, but the operation of indoor shopping malls and supermarkets are not limited by the rule. The notice, however, was sensationalized into a "war on Christmas" in Newsweek and "increased hostility toward signifiers of Western culture" in the New York Times.

Even if American reporters cannot read Chinese, they could at least personally have a look at what really is happening in the city. It is a routine for Chinese urban management authorities to manage roadside stalls and migrant vendors who often occupy bike lanes and even the motorway mostly without a legal business license. This is not aimed at Christmas particularly.

"The use of parks and other open spaces to spread religion will be managed and controlled": This part of the notice also drew widespread attention from foreign media, but is in line with China as well as many other countries' religious regulations.

Whether religious practices should be allowed in a public space is an issue open to debate in many countries. It is worth noting that in April this year, police from Orléans, a French city, were forced to make sure that Muslim worshippers cease occupying the public street to pray after residents complained to the local government.

China has also been exploring how to regulate excessive commercialization of religions, which is also not targeted at Christmas. By the end of 2017, Chinese central authorities issued guidelines on curbing problems in the commercialization of Buddhism and Taoism, such as banning companies or investors to invest, rent or run Buddhist or Taoist religious venues to earn profits. The latest rule on Christmas is simply anther exploration.

Western media seem to have declared that China is waging a war on Christmas at a whim. Native-born Chinese would find it laughable after reading their stories and say the China in their reports is a different nation from the one in which they've been living.

In the real China, Christmas trees can be found everywhere in shopping malls at this time of year. The melody of Jingle Bells is played on repeat. A majority of young Chinese people are purchasing gifts for friends and loved ones. And they created their own tradition - giving apples as presents on Christmas Eve since the word sounds like "peace" in Putonghua.

People do not reject Western culture in the real China. One can easily find that those who enjoy watching National Treasure, a Chinese cultural exploration program, are the same group who follow Netflix TV shows. Those who are learning folk music are the same people who can sing English songs excellently. Those who often post dumplings on their social media accounts are the same ones who like to post their Christmas celebrations. It's been 40 years since reform and opening-up and absorbing the essence of Western culture is one of the crucial reasons for the country's huge progress. Why would China shut its door to Western civilization now, including Christmas?

Posted in: OBSERVER

blog comments powered by Disqus