DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- The former Soviet republic of Tajikistan has banned Christmas trees and gift-giving in schools and tightened controls on Christmas and New Year's festivities this year.
A decree issued by the education ministry of the predominately Muslim country proscribes the "use of fireworks, festive meals, gift-giving and raising money," as well as "the installation of a Christmas tree, either living or artificial" in schools.
Tajikistan is a mountainous country northeast of Afghanistan. It was a Soviet Union republic until 1991.
Tajikistan remains conflicted about its Christian and other non-Muslim symbolism, a holdover from its days as part of the non-religious but heavily Russian Orthodox Soviet Union. The government of Tajikistan has encouraged festivities in general, including birthday and wedding celebrations, to be muted and although a Christmas tree is expected to be installed in the public square of the capital of Dushanbe, typical of former Soviet states, it is not expected to remain long.
On New Year's Eve 2011, a man dressed as Father Christmas, the Russian counterpart of Santa Claus, was stabbed to death in Dushanbe, days after a Muslim cleric urged his congregation not to participate in New Year celebrations. Tajikistan police also detained Halloween celebrants dressed as vampires and zombies in 2013 and 2014 after the government announced its opposition to the holiday.