Tajikistan: Father Christmas appears on TV despite 'ban'

Father Christmasses pose for a photographer
Image caption Father Christmas appears on camera for Tajik state TV

Father Christmas made frequent appearances on Tajik state-run TV over the new year, despite reports he would be banished.

Grandfather Frost - the Russian version of Father Christmas - appeared on the Tajik TV First Channel in a report about a presidential visit to a school. Later a host of red-robed and white-bearded men were broadcast walking through the capital, Dushanbe.

A presenter for First Channel dismissed media reports about an alleged TV ban on Father Christmas. On 31 December the channel's flagship news programme showed several Grandfather Frosts celebrating with the crowds in the capital's central square in the build up to the new year.

At the stroke of midnight, however, they were all notably absent.

Talabsho Mukim of Safina TV, another state-run channel, had previously said Father Christmas wouldn't be shown because he is "not a national symbol".

Another broadcasting official caused a stir in mid-December when he was reported to have said "these items and characters of fairy-tales have no direct connection to our national traditions" and so would not feature in TV programmes.

The mixed messages echo events in neighbouring Uzbekistan at the end of 2012. Despite a reported ban on showing Grandfather Frost on TV, the country's TV channels carried numerous images of him over the new year period. New year celebrations can be a contentious issue in some Central Asian countries, where governments appear to have been steering their citizens away from observing customs adopted when they were part of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991.

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