Monday 16 December 2019
Christmas is banned and illegal in some parts of the world. Photo: AFP

Fact: Christmas is banned and illegal in some parts of the world.

They’ve become an actual crime in certain countries, particularly in places where Christian traditions and festivities have not had the advantage of long history and/or lasting Western imperialism to firmly take root.

Celebrating Christmas, one of the biggest symbols of Christianity, is viewed by many traditional Asians as an attempt to expand the West’s reach. Yes, the day has long left its religious roots for the enticing shores of capitalism, commerce and materialism, but that only irritates Asian traditionalists even more. The blurry line between the celebration’s religious roots and Western materialism is near-inexistent for them, and is seen as “incompatible with Asian culture”.

These are some countries where Christmas has already become an actual crime:

In Brunei, anyone celebrating Christmas illegally can face up to five years in prison. The ban and law was introduced in 2014 over fears that celebrating it “excessively and openly” could lead its Muslim population astray. The punishment for celebrating Christmas is a fine of US$20,000 or up to five years in prison, or both, and Christians who wish to celebrate Christmas must do so in private and have to first alert the authorities. Officials from the nation’s Ministry of Religious Affairs have also reportedly visited local businesses to ensure they are not displaying Christmas decorations, including Santa hats and banners with Christmas greetings.

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Religion is usually the backdrop to these statements. (Photo by ARIF ALI / AFP)

Saudi Arabia is also famously anti-Christmas, its government reiterating its stand against Christmas celebrations after it came to light in 2015 that government hospitals allowed their non-Muslim employees to celebrate Christmas within their compounds. According to Saudi scholar Sheikh Mohammed Al-Oraifi, Muslims are not allowed to greet non-Muslims on their religious occasions like Christmas. “If they celebrate the birth of God’s son and you greet them… it means you endorse their faith,” he said.

Of course, this is possibly nowhere near as terrifying as the situation in North Korea, which has outlawed the celebrating of Christmas entirely. Any Christians in the country wishing to celebrate the day have to do so in complete secrecy or face unspecified action from Kim Jong-un’s government, the nature of the “unspecified action” generally being left to the imagination of the errant Christmastime criminal.

Less overt, but equally dictatorial, about their distaste for the Yuletide festival is the People’s Republic of China. In what seems to be part of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to “Sinicise” Chinese nationals and society at large, at least four Chinese cities and one county have ordered Christmas decorations banned. Students, teachers and parents from 10 schools around the nation told reporters that Christmas celebrations had been curtailed.

Hengyang, a city in Hunan province, said in a notice posted on an official government social media account that anyone caught holding Christmas sales or celebrations that blocked the streets would be punished. Chinese Communist Party members, the notice said, should avoid foreign festivals and instead be “models of adherence to Chinese traditional culture”. That said, even though this seems like another nailed thesis in the door for the ideological East vs West battle, the general Chinese populace continues to celebrate Christmas happily.

This article is an excerpt from UNRESERVED’s December 2019 issue from the article Crimes Against Christmas.

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