There are countries that have banned Christmas. Or do everything they can to oppose it. Somalia has now joined other countries who have for one reason or another prohibited winter festivities.
Here are eight of them.
As a theocracy governed strictly in the religion in Islam, it won’t be surprising to hear that Christmas festivities aren’t encouraged. In 2015 the government re-iterated their anti-Christmas stance in state media newspaper Arab News when it came to light that government hospitals allowed non-Muslim employees to celebrate Christmas within its compound.
Sheikh Mohammed Al-Oraifi, a Saudi scholar, said Muslims are not allowed to greet non-Muslims on their religious occasions like Christmas,’ they wrote, and quoting the scholar directly: “If they celebrate the birth of God’s son and you greet them…it means you endorse their faith.”
Christmas is obviously still going ahead this year. But for our 17th century cousins, there was a period when the government raged a war on Christmas.
Between 1647-1660 when a Puritanical movement led by Oliver Cromwell ruled England, the celebration of saints’ days was discouraged.
Christmas in particular was considered as a day ‘giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights’. Shops had to remain open and there were violent clashes in cities as a result of the ban.
North Korea are pretty hostile towards Christmas celebrations (and, you know, lots of other things).
So much so they almost went to war with South Korea when their Christian group built a 30-foot Christmas tree near the border.
North Korea wasn’t happy, calling it a tool of psychological warfare and threatening to fire artillery at it.
“[The tower] is not just a means for religious events but a symbol of madcap confrontation racket for escalating tensions,” North Korean state media said.
South Korea eventually scrapped the plan to build it.
Along with Somalia, Tajikistan is one of the three countries that have banned Christmas celebrations. It’s gone one step further after banning Russia’s version of Santa Claus Father Frost from TV in 2013.
Christmas trees and the giving of gifts in schools are prohibited. Its education ministry has issued a decree also not allowing ‘the use of fireworks, festive meals, gift-giving and raising money’ for New Year celebrations.
The Sultan of Brunei has told residents of his nation that those who chose to celebrate Christmas could face up to five years in jail.
Non-Muslims are allowed to celebrate it in their own communities, but are not allowed to share their plans with the country’s Muslims, 65 per cent of the population.
In a statement, the Ministry of Religious Affairs said they believed it could threaten the nation’s Muslim religion.
“These enforcement measures are…intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the aqidah (creed) of the Muslim community.”
Fun fact: Albania was the first constitutionally atheist state in the world. Its ban on Christianity as a religion in 1967 also meant they couldn’t celebrate Christmas either. The country’s constitution brought prison sentences of three to 10 years for ‘religious propaganda and the production, distribution, or storage of religious literature’. It was only when the communist regime fell in 1990 that citizens were allowed to attend Christmas services again.
Yep, even in the land of hope and freedom Christmas was once banned.
And it’s the work of Puritans once again. The first instance of a resistance to Christmas celebrations came in 1620, when the Pilgrims arriving in America spent Christmas Day working.
Then the Massachusetts Bay General Court banned Christmas between 1659-1681, and said anyone caught doing the ‘forbearing of labour, feasting, or any other way… whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Xmas or the like’ would be fined.
Christmas finally became a legally recognised federal holiday in 1840. 8)
Since the Communist Party takeover in 1949 and the restrictions on religion generally in the country, Christmas has been a controversial subject.
The Chinese celebrate it in lots of ways, particularly as a mass commercial holiday.
You can find evidence of Christmas in plenty of shopping centres and restaurants in big cities such as Beijing.
However, in the last year there have been crackdowns on the celebration of Christmas in universities and schools.
An education official of Wenzhou in the Zhejiang province said that it was a move against increasing influence of Western culture in the country.
“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.
This article first ran in Metro.co.uk in 2015.