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Five places where Christmas is illegal

Five places where Christmas is illegal

Not everywhere in the world is merry and bright throughout December.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, according to Andy Williams' festive track.

But although Brits are bombarded with lavish decorations, constant carolling and more mince pies than you can shake a stick at, not everywhere in the world is as merry and bright throughout December.

That's because Christmas is actually illegal in some corners of the world, and people are prohibited from hanging their stockings, leaving cookies out for Santa Claus and clinking glasses of eggnog.

Certain countries are banned from celebrating the festive season due to various rules and reasons.

Which is why if your considering a trip to another destination for a change over Christmas, it's best to double check on the local customs before you book your flights.


Gift giving is forbidden in Tajikistan.
Getty stock images

If you were travelling to Tajikistan for a Yuletide holiday, you would get a very rude awakening when you arrive and find that all festive celebrations, Christmas trees and gift-giving are banned.

The country - which borders Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan - have been gradually tightening restrictions more and more over the last decade.

But it really took it up a notch in 2013 when Father Frost (the Russian version of Father Christmas) was banned from TV screens, while the 'use of fireworks, festive meals, gift-giving and raising money' was also vetoed.

The 'installation of a Christmas tree either living (felled wood) or artificial' in schools and universities is also not allowed, according to a decree by the education ministry.

Halloween celebrations are also pretty much outlawed in Tajikistan, while funerals and weddings are also subject to strict regulations. One bloke was reportedly fined £475 for going to an Irish-themed pub with pals for his birthday in 2015.


The Sultan of Brunei put a stop to festivities.
Dan Kitwood - Pool/Getty Images

The south-east Asian nation Brunei enforces similar Scrooge-like rules, forbidding people from sporting Santa hats - or any Christmas related clothing or accessory for that matter.

In 2014, the Sultan of the tiny oil-rich state, Hassanal Bolkiah, said festivities were off the cards because he feared celebrating it 'excessively and openly' could lead its Muslim population astray.

People of other religions can still get merry, but only if it is behind closed doors and in complete privacy.

Some people claim that families also have to alert authorities about their festive plans before they can go ahead so that everything is above board and they don't run the risk of getting on the wrong side of the law.

The punishment for gathering for a shindig on 25 December without permission is a fine of up to £16,000 or up to five years in prison - or both.

Saudi Arabia

People are starting to push the boundaries of the Christmas ban in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia similarly vetoed any 'visible signs' of festive fun, because residents and tourists have to follow the lunar calendar and not the Gregorian calendar.

However, Christmas has been creeping into the country since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman relaxed some of the stricter religious rules - although celebrating Valentines Day and Halloween still remains prohibited.

In 2012, 41 Christians were reportedly nicked by religious police after being accused of 'conspiring to celebrate Christmas' - but a decade later and it seems festivities aren't such a taboo subject anymore.

Local markets now have every Santa-related doo dah on display that you could imagine - trees, baubles, tinsel, fake snow and even Mr Claus' trademark red hat with the white bobbles on top.

Although there has been no official announcement reversing the ban on celebrating Christmas, people have been slowly pushing the boundaries and have apparently not yet been met with backlash.

Some communities still abide by the strict rules though and don't hang up the mistletoe through fear of the potential reaction from authorities and customers who aren't keen on the idea of a Holly Jolly Christmas.


Some corners of China don't look like Shanghai does in December.
Costfoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

People in China are somewhat in the same boat - and the nation harshly brand the holiday season the 'Festival of Shame' and 'Western spiritual opium’ in wake of the Communist Party's (CCP) crackdown on outside influences.

Although it has key ties to the global market to make a buck from, the country is torn between protecting it's traditions and adopting a more merry approach to the month of December.

Millions of residents do commemorate Christmas, but festive gatherings have repeatedly been denounced by the government and it is still illegal to celebrate the holiday in some specific zones, such as Wenzhou, where all schools and public centres are forbidden from partaking in Yuletide activities.

The CPP have also banned party members, government agencies, and even universities from enjoying any festivities, while slogans are often shared on social media encouraging people to boycott Christmas.

Xing Hang, an associate professor at Brandeis University, told the Independent in 2021: "Government policy is essentially to ensure that churches put the party and state above the religion."

North Korea

Kim Jong-un isn't a fan of the festive season.
Russian FMA Telegram Channel/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

There is a similar attitude in North Korea around Christmas time, as Kim Jong-un's strict state only allows residents to pay tribute to his family, the ruling party and it's leaders, rather than Jesus Christ or Santa Claus.

The big day has not been openly celebrated in the country since the Kim dynasty started cracking down on religious freedoms all the way back in 1948, as the constitution doesn't really allow freedom of religion to citizens.

Anyone caught getting festive or holding any kind of Christmas gathering can be thrown in jail - or worse.

In 2016, Kim Jong-un banned merrymaking altogether and instead told citizens they should instead celebrate on 24 December... and it's not because he prefers Christmas Eve.

It's his grandmother's date of birth and he ordered North Koreans to pay tribute to her on that date instead.

According to South Korea's National Intelligence Service, the nation has banned 'any gatherings related to drinking, singing and other entertainment, and is strengthening control of outside information.'

Some people still secretly partake, but run the risk of being met with severe consequences.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Stock Photo

Topics: Christmas, Crime, World News