Beijing doesn’t recognize Christmas as a holiday, deeming the festivities a part of Western values.
In China, Christmas Eve is known as “Peaceful Night,” but also in China, “Peaceful Night” is never peaceful.
That’s because the Chinese government, while increasing its persecution on believers all over the country, is also going after the Christian holidays. No signs of Christmas festivities are allowed to be displayed, unless, of course, one wants to face the government’s wrath in what should be a joyful time.
Instead, Christmas in China in 2018 was filled with fear.
“We’ll celebrate Christmas tomorrow, but my teacher said that the police would be arresting people on the street. If anyone goes to celebrate Christmas, their ID card will be blacklisted,” one 13-year-old boy in Shuocheng district, under the jurisdiction of Shuozhou city, in China’s northern province of Shanxi, said to his mother on Christmas Eve.
And, indeed, the police were out in full force. On December 22, a house church in Pingdingshan city, in China’s central province of Henan, quietly held a Christmas celebration gathering in a rented room of an office building. Following a tip-off, on Peaceful Night, more than a dozen officials barged into the church’s meeting place – on the grounds of there being an “illegal gathering – and proceeded to tear it up, destroying the church’s cross as well as a plaque of Christian doctrine hanging on the wall. They then shut down the venue.
In 2018, a house church in Shanxi’s Yuncheng city was harassed and raided by the local government six times. Under pressure from the authorities, several church co-workers agreed to move the Christmas celebrations to earlier in the month, on December 6, as a major safety precaution. The church leaders chose a secluded restaurant located five kilometers away from their meeting venue but were so afraid the police would find out that they didn’t disclose the information to the believers until it was time to leave for the celebration.
Another house church, in Shanxi’s Linfen city, also held early celebrations, squeezing into a 20-meter-squared room, with more than 30 Christians standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Some believers, in bitter tones, said that in order to avoid being arrested, some house churches divided into small groups in November to celebrate Christmas.
It’s a sad routine played out all over the country, even for state-sanctioned churches.
On December 10, a Three-Self church meeting place in Chanhe district in Linfen city, crammed 30 to 40 believers in a room to quietly celebrate Christmas in advance, but keeping their voices (and what should have been merry festivities) down, singing and praying quietly so as to not be heard.
In Henan’s Luoyang city, after the government sealed off their state-approved church, Christians had no other choice but to hold a service at one member’s home, which was so small some people were forced to stand in the yard, shivering from the cold.
Since most of the government-approved Three-Self churches are kitted out with surveillance cameras, ensuring believers didn’t celebrate Peaceful Night or Christmas day there, Christians in one of them squeezed into the stairwell from the first to the second floor to avoid the surveillance cameras and celebrate Christmas on December 12.
“In the past, Christmas celebration always included performing shows and singing hymns. Now, we have a church, but we’re afraid to step inside. We feel extremely nervous and repressed. When praying, all the brothers and sisters cry together,” one believer said.
Reported by Feng Gang