Tajikistan has tightened restrictions on festive season celebrations, banning Christmas trees and gift-giving in schools.
This year’s measures are the toughest yet implemented by the country, which has been toning down Christmas and new year celebrations for some time – banning Father Frost, Russia’s version of Santa Claus, from television screens in 2013.
A decree by the education ministry prohibits “the use of fireworks, festive meals, gift-giving and raising money” over new year as well as “the installation of a Christmas tree either living (felled wood) or artificial” in schools and universities.
While other former Soviet states have set up large Christmas trees on the main squares of major cities, a tree will only appear briefly before new year in the capital, Dushanbe. It is expected to be removed early in 2016.
The December-January holiday season is contested in Tajikistan, a majority-Muslim but secular republic, where the population is divided over the benefits of Soviet and Russian influences.
On New Year’s Eve in 2011-2012, a man dressed as Father Frost was stabbed to death by unknown assailants outside the home of relatives in Dushanbe.
The man’s family claimed the attack had religious motives, but police denied this and said the three attackers were drunk.
Other holidays perceived as alien to Tajikistan’s culture have come under pressure in recent years. In 2013 and 2014, fancy dress zombies and vampires were reportedly detained by police as the government opposed any Halloween celebrations.