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China’s Christmas runs hot in the cold

HONG KONG (SE): While the biting chill of a Chinese winter did nothing to cool the warmth of the Christmas spirit, the police and security forces were out in force to hose down enthusiasm among the country’s thousands of unregistered House, Catholic and Protestant Churches.

Radio Free Asia reported that in Beijing many unregistered Churches were told to keep things low key and not to invite outsiders to join them.

“The government is not ready to accept large services run by House Churches yet,” Zhang Shengqi was reported as saying.”

He explained that his Church had tried to hire a bigger premises for its Christmas celebration, but got a call from the police saying that they would not be allowed to go ahead.

In some places, pastors were detained by police to prevent them from organising celebrations among their flocks.

However, despite the official frown, ChinaSource reported that Christmas last year remained as popular as ever, with registered Churches reporting bumper crowds at their celebrations.

AsiaNews reported that at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Guangzhou, people of all faiths and none queued for Mass and in Huishui county, Guizhou province, people took off for a two-hour procession through the streets of the town at the end of Mass carrying a statue of the baby Jesus and a cross.

They also carried banners and handed out leaflets, playing Christmas music on a loud speaker system as they wound their way between the buildings tall and small.

“People lit candles and followed the procession. Once under way, many people spontaneously joined in, while others crowded on both sides of the road, taking pictures and joining in the spirit,” AsiaNews reported.

The lead vehicle carrying the cross and the statue of Jesus was afforded a police escort for the full two-hour wander across the city.

Like most activities in China, experiences varied greatly from place to place, but unregistered Churches mostly reported the same story, limitations on their celebrations and increased pressure to join the government Three Self Movement or the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

But among the unregistered expressions of Christianity on the mainland, ChinaSource reported an explosion of online initiatives, utilising E-invitation cards in a creative manner.

When they are clicked, slides appear, sometimes playing Christmas music, with warm photographs and lively words of invitation.

One invitation sent out by a Church in Shanghai read, “Friends! Christmas is coming! What is Christmas? What is special about December 25? Christmas stockings? Discount season? Surprise? Snow? Gifts? No, the real meaning of Christmas is the birthday party of Jesus.”

One practitioner of the E-invitations told ChinaSource that they reflect the overall appeal of E-invitations in general, as they are simple, but rich in content, as well as being environmentally friendly and cost effective.


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