The disciplinary arm of the ruling Chinese Communist Party has banned its members and government officials from celebrating Christmas, likening the practice to "spiritual opium" for members of the atheist party.
A notice issued by the Commission for Discipline Inspection of Hengyang city in the central province of Hunan warned city officials not to engage in meals and gatherings on Christmas Eve, warning that those caught violating the rules would have to "bear responsibility."
The wording of the notice suggests it has been sent to officials nationwide.
"With the approach of Christmas, leaders and officials of all ranks must promote traditional Chinese culture and take on the task of building a spiritual home for the Chinese people," the notice, a copy of which was seen by RFA, says.
"They must earnestly study the doctrine of cultural self-confidence introduced at the 19th Party Congress, and refrain from blindly celebrating foreign festivals or engaging in Western religions," it said.
"They must not attend any celebrations of a Western origin, and carry out good security work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day," it said.
A Protestant Christian in the southern province of Guangdong said Christmas-themed gifts are also fast-disappearing from retail outlets in Chinese cities.
"Basically any Christmas gift items are being taken from the shelves," the Christian, who asked to remain anonymous, told RFA on Wednesday. "That includes items worn by Christians, including a pair of sunglasses with the symbol of the cross and the words 'Jesus Loves You'."
Meanwhile, a company in the northwestern province of Gansu has removed Christmas trees from its online store, after warnings from the local commerce and industry department, sources said.
The moves come after a university in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang banned its students from holding any gatherings to celebrate Christmas.
"In recent years, some young people have been blindly celebrating Western religious festivals such as "Silent Night," the Chinese term for the night before Christmas, and Christmas Day as a result of the commercial hype surrounding Western culture," a directive from the Shenyang Pharmaceutical University's Communist Party Youth League branch said.
The practice was also the result of "wrong-headed opinions online," it said. "It is forbidden to hold any Christmas-related event, in order to enable the broad Youth League movement to establish cultural self-confidence."
An official who answered the phone at the university's security department confirmed the ban.
"That's right, it applies to all on-campus activities, for which you need to apply to university management," the official said. "No activities will be allowed to go ahead without approval."
Beijing-based right activist Hu Jia said the move is in keeping with notions of the rise of China and "cultural self-confidence" under President Xi Jinping.
"All that is allowed in higher education now is Marxism and Xi Jinping's Chinese dream," Hu said. "There has been a huge backlash against Western religions like Christianity in the Chinese Communist Party, and they are doing everything in their power to stop them."
Reported by Gao Shan and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.