Today as millions celebrated Easter around the world, guest blogger Stuart Beaton (http://rastous.podomatic.com/) notes that this holiday is blatantly absent in China. Here’s Stu to discuss why:
While Christmas has become an unofficial holiday on the calendar, Easter will probably never be allowed to catch on – it’s just too dangerous a story to let loose.
Christmas here has been carefully pruned of any religious connotations whatsoever. Ask a Chinese person what Christmas is about, and they’ll probably say it’s something to do with presents, giving and the end of the year. Some kind of Mid-Winter Festival.
I’ve even been told it celebrates the birth of Santa.
In fact, a few years ago, I saw a magnificent Nativity display set up in a department store, almost life size, perfect in nearly every detail – but instead of an infant Christ, there was a baby Santa in the manger.
Religion is an incredibly tightly controlled thing here in China. There are only five “Official” religions recognized (The Peoples’ Catholic Church Of China, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism), and their practice, beliefs and practitioners are pretty closely monitored. The Communist Party even goes so far as to appoint its own Cardinals (which Rome pretty much ignores) and other religious leaders, in an effort to micromanage all aspects of a given “church”.
Christianity is viewed here with great suspicion by the Party, as it is seen as encouraging individuality, and putting God before the State. Free thinking that doesn’t fit inside the CCP box is usually ruthlessly pruned, and “underground” and “home” churches are often raided and broken up under the auspices of National Security. Foreign believers are openly shadowed by the Public Security Bureau, to prevent them mixing with “ordinary” believers and spreading unsanctioned ideas.
But the biggest objection that the Party has to Easter is the whole “back story” to it.
Some bloke rides into town on a donkey, and tells people that they don’t have to listen to the Authorities? Hangs out with a group of people he’s training up to spread this idea of civil disobedience?
And then gets martyred into the bargain? Comes back to spread a message that people should have hope, and continue to resist?
Yeah, that goes down a treat with a Government that expects conformity, control and top down hierarchical command.
The closest I’ve seen to any sort of Easter display here over the years is in a Godiva Chocolate store, where, under a “Celebrate Spring” poster, there were half a dozen ridiculously expensive eggs, and a few desultory bunnies.
I won’t hold my breath for any improvement in years to come.