Every country has its own distinctive style of enjoying the holiday season, and Christmas is observed differently all around the world.
While Christmas is today mostly a secular holiday observed by over 160 nations, it was initially a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth, and some countries do not observe it.
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At least 40 countries don’t have official public holidays at Christmas, though more than half of these nations do have at least some form of public observation, such as the occasional Christmas tree.
According to the country’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, the rules are “intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the aqidah (creed) of the Muslim community”. One expat told UCANew.co.uk that “the only way to enjoy the festive season is to get out for a vacation”.
According to the Daily Express, Christmas in China is “another working day and schools, offices and shops all remain open”, adding: “The country is officially a non-religious state, so Christmas was once completely banned.”
For decades, the Muslim-majority country has had a tumultuous relationship with Christianity and its holidays. This was especially true under the Taliban’s leadership in the 1990s, and “two decades later, there is little sign that the Taliban has evolved,” according to The Times’ John Pontifex.
Now that the extremist organization has regained control of Afghanistan, tensions between Christians and other minority faiths are certain to persist. According to Pontifex, the takeover was a “catastrophe” for those religious groups.
Christmas is practically seldom observed here, and those who do risk being persecuted if they do.
Algeria, a Muslim-majority country, has not celebrated Christmas in any official manner since gaining independence from France, a predominantly Catholic country, in 1962.
However, Christian African migrants in the country, as well as diplomats and locals, have conducted tiny festivities. According to Reuters, a market organized by the faith-based charity Caritas in 2017 signaled “solid security in a country that has recovered from a decade of Islamist terrorist conflict.”
With a Christian community of only 10,000 people (less than 1% of the total population), Christmas is not part of the Bhutanese calendar, which prioritizes Buddhism.
Since 2015, the tiny oil-rich Islamic monarchy of Brunei has prohibited the public celebration of Christmas, with anyone caught breaking the law facing up to five years in prison or a fine of US $20,000, or both.
Non-Muslims are permitted to celebrate the holiday in their own communities, but they are not permitted to discuss their plans with the country’s Muslims, who account for around two-thirds of the population. According to The Guardian, officials began “clamping down on Christmas” in 2018, with individuals being told to “concentrate instead on promoting traditional Chinese culture.”
According to The Independent, Christmas in North Korea is “something of a non-event.” Because of the country’s severe, totalitarian view of atheism as apparently written out in communist philosophy, all things Christmas have been outlawed.
The publication said, “The North Korean government works hard to ensure that information regarding religious holidays does not permeate the so-called hermit nation.” Those who did not observe the holiday risk being “imprisoned, tortured, or sentenced to death.”
According to news site Parhlo, the country’s extremely small Christian population “remains full of insecurity” about celebrating Christmas, and there could be a “danger to the lives of those enjoying the celebrations.”
Most religions, such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism, do not acknowledge Christmas and Easter because they are ancient Christian festivals, hence Christianity is the only religion that celebrates them. It’s simple for Jews to comprehend why they don’t celebrate Christmas.
These countries include Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, and Serbia.
With over 350 million Christians living in the continent, many Southern and West African countries celebrate Christmas with massive festivities, even those that are predominantly Muslim.
Christmas is celebrated all around the world, but there are a few places where it’s not recognized as an official holiday. If you want to avoid the crowds and celebrate Christmas in a more intimate setting, why not consider one of these destinations? From Asia to South America, we’ve got you covered. Where will your Christmastime wanderlust take you this year?