Saudi Arabia: Commonalities between Ramadan and Christmas

I truly do not remember a lot about last Christmas even though Abdullah was still alive and we were both in the States.  We were both in the midst of our battles with cancer and so much of last year remains a fog for me.  However this year I am more fully aware of what is going on and watching the Christmas preparations with interest.

I find that there are commonalities between Ramadan and Christmas preparations even though the reason of both is quite different from one another.  The Quran was revealed to Muhammed (PBUH) during the holy month of Ramadan.  Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day, hence the name “Christmas.”

Ramadan is to be the holy month of fasting, reflection, prayer and compassion.  Christmas Day is to be a time when Christians remember, reflect and celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Yet both Ramadan and Christmas have become a highly commercialized time of market opportunity.  Both holidays are also well known as a time for exchanging gifts and wearing one’s best new clothes.

I remember a Saudi woman describing to me why the holy month of Ramadan would pass by so quickly.  The first week was focused on adapting to fasting from sunrise to sunset.  The second and third weeks were focused on Ramadan shopping; looking for and buying the special gifts for family and friends.  The fourth week was usually busy with any last minute shopping and preparing special treats and dishes for the three days of Eid.  All in all the whole month became a joyful time of holiday concluding with lots of gift giving and good food.

Special shows are broadcast on television during Ramadan and Christmas.  In addition to the special shows there are commercials which widely advertise and promote special gifts for the respective holiday.

For many the Christmas season, which can start months in advance for some Christians, is focused on finding the right gifts for many people.  Most families usually start special Christmas baking at least three weeks prior to Christmas.  Christmas day is spent as a joyous day which begins in the earliest hours of the morning exchanging and opening gifts concluding with a special meal.

Many Saudis will turn around their days and nights during the holy month of Ramadan.  They are “technically” fasting but are not doing so in the manner that is expected in honoring the tradition of Ramadan.  Ramadan is supposed to be a time of trial for Muslims in that they are supposed to continue their typical schedule while at the same time fasting.

Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of joy and remembrance of Jesus Christ rather than taken over by the many images of Santa Claus.

I’m not without fault or blame.  I am one of the individuals who take great joy in giving gifts during both Ramadan and Christmas.  Yet I think it is worthwhile to take a time out and reflect upon the true meanings of each holiday.

As this is the Christmas season in America I felt it appropriate to conclude this post with a poignant reminder of the true meaning of Christmas with sharing a moving video/song which is based on a true story originating by the innocent question of a little boy.

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2 Responses

  1. My Syrian friend recently said the same thing about my Christmas prep being similar to Ramadan. 🙂 Enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. I seem to recall you doing on a lot of baking last Christmas for your son and his family. 🙂

  2. Yes; this is the time of year that my son and I have an “informal” bake out! (smile)

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