Saudi Arabia’s Christmas Spirit: Connecting Cultures in Festive Celebrations
RIYADH: The celebration of Christmas in Saudi Arabia, a country known for its rich cultural heritage and Islamic traditions, presents a unique and evolving story. Although Christmas is a Christian festival, its universal appeal resonates across cultures and beliefs, including in Saudi Arabia, where the expatriate community brings its own traditions to the season.
In Saudi Arabia, Christmas takes on a unique hue, blending traditional elements with local customs. For many expats living in the kingdom, like Briton Liam Stump in Riyadh, the prospect of celebrating Christmas is a cherished one.
He told Arab News that Christmas decorations and festive activities in malls and public spaces are a testament to the country’s growing cultural landscape.
“Finding Christmas decorations so easily and enjoying festive coffees like gingerbread lattes brings a piece of the holiday spirit,” Stump said. After seven years in Riyadh, Stump has woven her own Christmas rituals with her partner, balancing work with festive celebrations, including keeping up with tradition and enjoying local attractions like Riyadh Boulevard World while playing “Secret Santa” with friends.
American expatriate Ramona Harmon, an instructor at Princess Nora University, shares a similar experience. This year, she looks forward to celebrating with her Saudi fiance, incorporating traditional Saudi elements into her Christmas decorations and embracing the local culture. “I go around collecting gifts for them (her fiance’s family), maybe making some gingerbread cookies, listening to Christmas music and counting my blessings in the quiet night of Christmas Eve before Christmas Day,” Harmon said.
The inclusive nature of Christmas celebrations in Saudi Arabia reflects the kingdom’s historical openness to people of different faiths. For centuries, the region has been a crossroads of cultures and religions, fostering a diverse and rich tapestry of beliefs and customs. This inclusive legacy continues today, with Saudi Arabia welcoming millions of expatriates from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, further enriching its social fabric.
Christmas is not the only festive season in Saudi Arabia. The country celebrates its own rich heritage and religious events, marking various events throughout the year. From the colorful celebrations of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, rooted in Islamic tradition, to the national pride displayed during the Saudi National Day, the Kingdom exhibits the ability to blend tradition with modernity.
Juliana Diaz, a Colombian expatriate celebrating her first Christmas in Saudi Arabia, adds to the multicultural seal by preparing traditional Colombian dishes with Saudi flavors. Incorporating Saudi Arabian ingredients into Colombian cuisine for Christmas is Diaz’s way of bringing cultures together, he tells Arab News.
The hospitality sector in Saudi Arabia has also embraced the spirit of Christmas, with five-star hotels and catering companies offering special holiday menus. Embassies and embassies join in the celebrations by hosting Christmas dinners featuring international cuisine.
At its heart, Christmas is about sharing joy, kindness and festivities with people around the world, regardless of their cultural or religious background. The way Christmas is celebrated in Saudi Arabia exemplifies this sense of inclusiveness and universal unity. By welcoming and embracing the traditions of its diaspora communities, Saudi Arabia not only enriches its own cultural landscape but also fosters a sense of global citizenship and shared humanity.