Christmas is gaining its importance in atheist China in recent years. Amid a high-profile call to boycott Christmas from a group of doctoral students, thousands of faithful all over the country received the special date with Christian worship in government-sanctioned churches at Christmas Eve.
According to the Associated Press, Catholic churches in major cities such as Beijing, Nanjing, Qinghai, Shanghai and others have held Christmas Eve services. Thousands of believers were drawn to pray together and receive blessings from their bishops.
Under the existing religious policy in China, Christians and Catholics are only allowed to worship in the government-sanctioned churches; all religious activities out of those churches are regarded illegal. However, many sources show that Christians belonging to house churches still celebrated together in private meetings under the threat of persecution.
Thus, compared to the increasingly secularized and commercialized Christmas in some Christian western countries, the total number of Chinese Christians and Catholics celebrating the Christmas in traditional religious ways could be unimaginably large.
Yet, the rising popularity of Christmas in China- not only among the believers, but also among the general public- has raised the concern of some academic elites. According to the report of China’s official state media, 10 doctoral students from top institutions such as Tsinghua, Peking and People's universities, published an open letter complaining that "Christmas is a Christian holiday imported from the West" and suggesting that "Chinese should stick to the traditions and festivals observed in their own culture."
Many internet users have responded very quickly to the letter and most of well-educated or professionals have embraced the idea, according to a report of the Washington Post.
"Chinese people don't understand Christmas, yet they celebrate Christmas. I think the reason is that they worship foreign things and fawn on foreign powers," said Yin Jianguang, an editorial writer at Huashang newspaper in the central province of Shaanxi, quoted by the Washington Post.
Reports say that as in other Asian countries, except for Christians, the Christmas holiday in China has little connection to the birth of Jesus. The celebration of the non-Christian Chinese still centers on secular traditions of gift-giving, decorating and feasting,
However, the letter’s writers have also warned of the Christmas-hit that could have possibly created a "favorable environment" for the spread of Christianity among the younger generation.