Wednesday, March 1, 2023

How Christmas is Celebrated in Saudi Arabia

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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a non-Christian country. Therefore, the celebration of Christmas in KSA is non-customary. This is especially true in Riyadh, and the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. However, open cities, such as communities in the Eastern Province and cosmopolitan Jeddah, are regions of the kingdom that faintly commemorate the holiday.

Christmas in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is totally different than that in the Philippines. Celebrations are limited and vary depending upon the region, the employer, and other circumstance. After all, December 25 is not a holiday in the kingdom.

In the Philippines, people go to church to attend mass on Christmas Eve. But a totally different scenario is experienced by Filipinos in Saudi Arabia. It should be mentioned that there are no Catholic churches built or constructed and hence, will never be possible because the laws of the kingdom strictly disallow it. Notwithstanding the Kingdom never tolerates building churches in its territories, they still allow non-Muslims to worship privately. Thus, the only remedy non-Muslims do is to conduct or host a service in their homes. This is allowed in the open cities. Furthermore, expats are allowed to carry a Bible as long as it is for personal use only, and not for public use or worship.

Another difference noted by expats in celebrating Christmas in Saudi Arabia is the limitation of decors and holiday parties. These customs are allowed in open cities, but they must be kept indoors. On the other hand, there are western compounds in the Kingdom that resemble small Western villages. These places are well-lit and decorated with a Christmas tree in the window. Santa Clause is even known to make appearances in western compounds. Expats may also conduct activities such as games and contests during their indoor parties. Moreover, they can exchange gifts and set up a sumptuous dinner for Christmas.

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christmasIn Jeddah, there are bakeries that sell Christmas cakes during the Yuletide season. This is something Saudi employer and colleagues love to give their non-Muslim friends. There are also shops that sell gifts decked out in green and red wrappers. In addition, there are also Christmas ornaments such as camels that say ‘Christmas, Riyadh.’ Some employers who are more liberated throw out Christmas parties for their non-Muslim employees, keeping it less obvious.

In a similar manner, the Muslim employer may also invite his non-Muslim employees to his house and cook dinner for them on Christmas Eve after they go off from work. One Saudi supervisor, who works with mostly non-Muslims, usually arranges a private room at a luxurious restaurant or hotel for a dinner. Muslims appreciate and respect the special holidays of Christians. Christmas is a very special occasion for these people. And considering they are miles away from home, there is no reason why not to celebrate! With this little gesture, these employees can at least get to rejoice and commemorate the Yuletide season.

On the whole, Christians in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are allowed to celebrate Christmas. However, the celebration is not as grand as it is in their hometowns. Furthermore, they are allowed to practice their faith, provided that they do such in the privacy of their homes.

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