Chinese Reality Show Blurs Christmas Symbols to Boycott Western Holidays

A popular Chinese reality show sparked controversy last month after pixelating all elements relating to Christmas on an episode shot in a luxurious hotel decorated for the Christian celebration.

Mango TV, a subsidiary of state-controlled Hunan Television, aired the first episode of the sixth season of Who’s the Murderer, a popular online reality show, on December 24. As it was Christmas Eve, the television saw it fitting to shoot the show in a hotel decorated for the Christian celebration. However, they also decided it would be a good idea to censor all elements related to Christmas, as a way to avoid being criticized by the Government for showing Western festivals and worshiping foreign things. The result was a pixelated mess, with protagonists walking by blurred Christmas trees, tinsel-decorated plants, and even wearing blurred Christmas hats.

Who’s the Murderer is features a cast of celebrities who play different roles in order to find evidence at a “crime scene” and figure out who the murderer is. It’s not the kind of plot that would ever be associated with Christmas, but production thought that the special episode’s setting could be interpreted as a promotion of Western festivals, so a decision was made to blur out all Christmas trees, wreaths, bells, and other decorations during broadcast. Even the protagonists’ Christmas hats were censored with post-production cartoon hats.

Apart from the fact that the shapes of the Christmas-related decorations were faintly visible behind the post-production blurring, in some scenes, there is so much censoring that the protagonists of the show are the only ones clearly visible.

While there is no official document that bans Western festivals and cultural elements in China, a clampdown on foreign celebrations and various other cultural elements has been observed in recent years. Some cities have banned Christmas decorations in public places, Chinese schools have banned Christmas celebrations on campus, and one TV station started blurring men’s pierced ears.

This hostile attitude toward Western festival and trends is believed to have been kickstarted in January 2017 by a document issued by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council. Entitled “Suggestions on implementation of projects to promote and develop traditional Chinese cultural heritage”, it asked all levels of government and local authorities to promote Chinese festivals and culture.

After the latest episode of Who’s the Murderer aired on December 24, Mango TV got a lot of backlash from viewers, many of whom criticized the blurring as over-the-top and unnecessary.

“Although Christmas isn’t a Chinese festival, most people celebrate it purely to create an atmosphere and for fun. It feels weird to pixilate those elements,” one Weibo user commented.

“In our country, Christians are the minority. The majority see Christmas as a fun festival,” another person wrote. “The commercial sector finds a reason to get sales, consumers find an opportunity to spend, lovers find an occasion to reveal their feelings or make out. It has nothing to do with worshiping the West. The majority do not think that Christmas has anything to do with religion. This is not the way to build cultural confidence; Chinese culture’s strength is related to its power to absorb other cultures. We used to accept foreign culture and make it our own, so that our civilization can move on. What have we become now?”


The controversy spread from Weibo to Western social media platforms like Twitter as well, and a day after airing the Christmas-censored episode of Who’s the Murderer, Mango TV decided to remove the controversial pixelation. That’s what Chinese publication The Stand News claimed, anyway, because the version of the episode uploaded on the show’s official YouTube channel still has plenty of blurring.

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