Saudi Arabia: Celebrating Christmas in the Kingdom

Christmas may not be as widely visible in Saudi Arabia as in other parts of the world, yet it is not impossible to celebrate Christmas in Saudi Arabia.

Celebrations may need to be low key or held in private places but they do take place.  Some Saudi employers also recognize that their non-Muslim employees are far away from families during the Christmas season and will help arrange or turn a blind eye to a Christmas party.

Western compounds generally resemble a small Western village during the Christmas season with villas decorated with flashing lights and a Christmas tree in the window.  Santa is even known to make appearances at the Western compounds.

It is common for bakeries in the Kingdom to carry Christmas cakes which many Saudis like to present to their non-Muslim friends.

Some shops will have gifts which have an obvious Christmas cheer to them decked out in red and green wrappings.  Other little shops may even have Saudi style Christmas ornaments such as camels which may say “Christmas, Riyadh 2011.”

An expatriate should never assume that it is okay to openly celebrate or decorate in a public office as seen in the States.  Christmas decorations are generally frowned upon in public areas which get a lot of traffic.  However some expats are encouraged to decorate a private conference room and hold a holiday celebration.

When I was in Saudi I attended holiday celebrations where both expats and Saudis were gathered.  It was a pleasure sharing such a tradition with Saudis.

My husband and I always respected and shared each others traditions regardless of where we were located.

In closing this post, here is a fun link to use and send holiday greetings to friends and family.


66 Responses

  1. The hatred of foreign traditions in a country that needs foreign workers is sad.

  2. Saudi Arabia is a wierd country. Their ancestors killed their own unborn grandson of their own Prophet(s),they killed his daughter and the so called Sahabah killed his other grandsons .And they don’t let the believer mourn the progeny of their Prophet who they also falsely claim they revere and follow.
    Madam you are extremely lucky you have found some celebrations related to Great Eesah Maseeh Alaihissalaam allowed in the country you are living other wise on that weird soil, where commemorating the mass assassination of the Martyred Prophet’s progeny is prohibited in public , In no other muslim countries of the world it is so except there or in Bahrain or the Malayasia where they have the maximum influence , however in some pockets of their own land where there is a sizeable population of the true admirers of the Prophet (s) of Islam and His Progeny.
    The guilty conscious ummah is too ashamed to allow mourning processions and Open comemoration of the tragedy inflicted by those very forces whom they revere.

  3. I had so much fun making Christmas cookies. As many different kinds as I could and then packing them for my fellow workers. The only thing that limited me was my ablility to carry them. To my knowledge no one refused them. They were gone in two shakes of a stick. It wasn’t just the expates who ate them either.

    I gave Christmas gifts to my driver who was muslim. He was very gracious to except it even if it were from a Christian.

  4. Here’s a “dear abby” advice by a very learned sheik-ul-izlam to fellow muslims, on the protocols for the holydaze season ( :

    Don’t say “Merry Christmas”. Say “I wish you the best,” Meaning, “I hope you become Muslim” wishing it secretly in your heart.

    Part of comment and link removed. Too low for the standing of this blog.

  5. Eurabia: Celebrating Christmas in the Kalifate of Euroistan.

    Voila Fa La La La La La Fa Allah Is Great! Eurabia’s Post-Christian Choir presentation:

  6. @Harry Guggen,

    I think your criticism of Islam has become more of an attack on people. You predictably sound like a racist in every message you post.

    You need to reexamine the reason you are in this debate. Is it to separate? or is to educate others for a better understanding?

    Merry Christmas to all…

  7. It’s good to hear how people celebrate in KSA. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I know I had posted about this experience several years ago on the blog but I’d like to share it again.

    When Abdullah was in the hospital in KSA he had me go out and purchase gifts for all the nurses, male and female, muslim and non-muslim. No one refused their gifts. Several other muslim patients on the floor also had cakes and other sweets delivered in honor of Christmas. The cakes had ‘Merry Christmas’ inscribed on them. The nurses also had their own Christmas celebration in a conference room and all (muslim and non-muslim) attended and exchanged gifts. I felt honored as I was asked to join them too.

    The expat community also has many holiday activities which include getting to see Santa and having a photo taken with Santa.

    The Vatican embassy also had midnight mass services and Christmas day services for those who wished to attend.

    What I am wishing to emphasize here is that even though one may find themselves in a Muslim country, it does not mean that other traditions, like Christmas, can not be honored and celebrated.

  9. Happy Holiday and Merry Christmas.


    Where is the race issue on Jay. Muslims are not a race they are a group of people following an ideology. I guess I could say those who attack Christians are now racist. They can leave that ideology if they choose; although some would just have to be very quite about it. It has nothing to do with race. Why are you of all people going there? Was it a slip? Again, happy holidays.

    Please don’t start a discussion on other commentators. Take it up with the person themselves if you have a problem.

  10. @Moq

    Should be Harry not Jay.

  11. @bigstick,

    First it is not Jay, it is Harry.

    Second, I am referring to the videos and the links he keeps posting her. They do not advance a discussion about an ideology, they advance hatred and stereo typing. Note the Charlie Brown Cartoon which makes a kid into a terrorist just because he changed to a Muslim. Bigstick you have to realize, I have read a lot of Harry’s comments for much longer than you have. If you look at his comment in a comprehensive fashion the only conclusion you can come up with is that he is a prejudice person.

    “Why are you of all people going there? Was it a slip?”

    No it is not a slip. Every time I make a comment here I mean it. It is real easy to do that with comments as I have plenty of time to think it over it does not have to be spontaneous like oral arguments. So if we are talking about a slip, wouldn’t you consider confusing Jay and Harry a slip?

    Also, Like I told JC before, questioning my motivation for taking a stand is not valid for you to debate. How I make my positions and why are none of your business. Argue against my point and do not make it personal unless you expect the same.

    Happy Holidays

    Please don’t discuss other commentators. I will edit comment from now so it is not necessary.

  12. @ Moq:

    You didn’t see my correction on the name apparently. I am big enough to admit my slips apparently your are not. You are the one that takes things personal often. Calling Harry a racist is off. If he dislikes the religion that has nothing to do with the race; so calling him a racist is the wrong terminology. There is my point against your point. You are the one that likes going straight to conspiracy theories on the smallest of things (science conversation) and many times go to the extreme. You like hittting extremes often and frequently. Again, why is that? I do find your information exceptionally helpfully, but you tend to go off as well. Yes, there is a teaching point. However, for you it is your way or the highway on the issue of muslims. In other words it is personnal for you and you put it out there as personnal. You have an issue with religion personnally and against Islam in particular. That is extremely obvious.

    I don’t care for them (all religions) because of the damage it does to everyone and society at large. Currently muslims are in the worst category at this time; however, other religions have been there before. Is it personal for me? Yes. I have kids and want them to grow up without such damaging fantasy that curtails their opportunities, thoughts, or freedoms.

    “Also, Like I told JC before, questioning my motivation for taking a stand is not valid for you to debate. How I make my positions and why are none of your business. Argue against my point and do not make it personal unless you expect the same.”

    Anything is valid to debate.

    Blogging is personal. Debating can be both personal as well as factual or logical. Go right ahead and make it personal. I am grown up enough to understand the components of humanity including one’s position as a personal stance.

    Maybe Lynn has a point. You have gotten extremely jaded over the years from what I have read of your past blogs.

    I still find our discussions interesting and you are very knowledgable on the muslim religion. I have a certain respect for you just off the past blogs and actually as a blogger I like our conversations for the most part. It is that you just tend to be closed minded and are becoming unapproachable to open the door for other discussions that may lead you or another person to a different view point as you immediately hit the conspiracy theory or extreme stance placing the whole conversation immediately into a combat situation. Why don’t you adjust your stance and actually get into a discussion on occasion rather than immediately going into a fighting debating mode? Or do you see me as a hostile to your position?

    Please don’t discuss other commentators. Take it up with the person themselves if you have a problem.
    And no personal attacks please. personal attacks will be editted

  13. @ AB

    Where is the picture from?

  14. ‘The Vatican embassy also had midnight mass services and Christmas day services for those who wished to attend.’

    I’m just stunned that the Vatican has an embassy in KSA!

  15. @bigstick,

    Go back and read Harry’s comments on this blog.You will notice more than 70% are attacks on people that call themselves Muslims They also include links to the most prejudice sites (gives you an idea of what this man’s ideology got shaped with). You won’t find much of an intellectual discussion about ideology, just pure hate and stereo typing. This includes his latest Charlie Brown spoof cartoon.

    I cannot stop you from being unwise and attaching yourself to Harry’s positions. If you think his comments here are not of the prejudice quality, then I guess you have also turned into a radical prejudice person. Sorry my friend but your insistence on taking a strong stance with messages of hate made you earn it.

    Regarding the rest of your rant. It is full of personal attacks, strawman arguments, and even trying to get others like Lynn involved in your squabbles. I hope you grow up and start making sense.


  16. When I first arrived in Bahrain in the 80’s my first christmas passed without so much as a merry christmas heard from anyone, the radio, tv etc (just Bahrain and saudi channels and news then) The stores didn’t have anything related to christmas in them (at least none that I ever went in) and it could have been any other time of the year. It took several years before christmas started making its presence known in bahrain and mostly that was in the foreign dominated areas…then slowly made its way into most stores even if just small trinkets or festive signs etc. Eventually you could order christmas trees to be delivered to bahrain and the radios started playing music etc. However, merry christmas or the word christmas was rarely used…usually the word “festive” or “happy holidays” etc is what you saw everywhere.

    The first time fairy lights became available I bought some and decorated my kids room with them…around the ceiling and walls. They were entranced and especially liked the ones that blinked or cycled. We would often turn the lights off, play music and dance. Fairy lights have always been part of our home decorating package. Good times.

  17. Edited due to name calling

  18. @ Moq:

    Lynn is the one that addressed that earlier directly to you. So I am not bringing her into the fray anymore that she brought herself. Only making an observation that she could have been right in her statement. I also don’t think what I wrote was a rant. I believe I made extremely valid points giving your stance many times against myself and others. If you take this to the extremely personal side that is your doing. Not mine. I am simply stating my observations from previous conversations.

  19. Lynn, You are just being the classy lady you have always been 😉

  20. @ Lynn

    You brought it up when it went off on me on the whole donor organ article and he went extreme.

  21. @ Lynn

    Oh Merry Joyous Christmas to you as well. :0)

  22. @bigstick,

    Your last comment about bringing Lynn into it just sounds like high school level discussion of he said she said. Good luck with that one. Adults should not engage in that… .

    I hope you and Lynn enjoy your fighting over every comment anyone makes. I am getting myself a cold beer.

  23. @ Lynn

    Edited due to name calling

  24. @bigstick – the image is from google. I found it when I did a search on the terms “Saudi Christmas.”

  25. come on ya’ll….it is a holiday season and no time for rants! If I could, I’d have everyone over for eggnog!

  26. @Carol – ‘it is a holiday season and no time for rants’

    CLEARLY you have never spent a Christmas with MY family! LOL

  27. @MoQ

    You get stuck in small petty things and can’t address the bigger items. The observation was provided earlier. If Lynn didn’t want in it all she had to do is not address it. I believe you used me earlier as a ping pong ball between the two of you. With you using my conversation with someone else to go off on and go to the extreme. However, you are still missing the big point. You are going to the extremes again and decided to deter the actually message. Why can’t you actually have a normal discussion. Your are an intelligent person way waste that on this tactic?

  28. @Lynn – I’m game to spend a holiday with your family! (smile)

  29. @ AB

    If I could I would be there. Enjoy. It isn’t a rant. I actually like Moq. I just wish he would actually discuss more than go into a fighting debate. It would be of greater use to actually have a good conversation with him as I like some of his positions. It is just that sometimes he can be rather thick at times.

    @ Moq

    Again, I didn’t say I took Harry’s position only that racism was not appropriate. You are also the one who has made the same statement that ideology and racism are different.

  30. @AB,

    Your commentators have turned into kids who cannot stop from calling names.


    I did not use you as a ping pong between Lynn and I. She wanted to attack me so she used you (look back at that argument). You allowed that to happen by taking sides with her. Seriously, you are doing the same thing here. You brought her into this discussion, because you know she cannot resists a fight. We all know that. She has nothing to do but fight on this blog.

    Get wise bigstick. Look at the commentators on this blog. Study their behavior. Lynn has no ideological stance. She is just in it for the sport of the fight. She will be with you today, she will fight you tomorrow, if you are not accepting her fight she will slam coolred if not her it will be some poor person who commented for first time on the blog. Etc. I just happen to be her favorite target at the moment 😉

    Everyday she is here. Everyday she gets her ego stroked by attacking someone. The problem bigstick is she is taking people with her to that level. You just called me a name like a high school kid using her terms. Is that what you want to turn into?

  31. @ Moq

    Get off that point and address the bigger issues. You are the one that brought it down to this point by going to the exteme. My stance is that the ideology is different from racism. You have stood on this point. Now you state that because I am making a distinction that I have lowered myself somehow to what you believe is Harry’s position. When all I have done is made the point that racism and ideology are different. Then you went back to extremes, what is up with that? You are the one that decided to pick that one statement out of all the rest and go down that path. Not addressing the other issues.

    Don’t pass the article attack on Lynn it was you that did that. Why don’t you go back and re-read it.

    Editted due to personal attacks.

  32. @Carol – You are welcome anytime! It should be safe. Most of the rants have pretty well stopped since we learned how to keep the booze away from that one sister-in-law, Mary, on Christmas ;-). Ahhh, poor Mary and Joseph the dreaded Christmas guests. Guess who gets to put them up this year? I better go finish preparing them a place…

  33. @bigstick,

    First you inserted your self in an argument I made against Harry.

    ” My stance is that the ideology is different from racism.”

    Ideology is not always different that Racism. There is ideology that does not deal with race. There are ideologies that are inherantly racist and prejudice. Have you heard of the Nazi’s.

    By the way I never made a position on that. I made a position that Harry is a Racist Prejudice person based on his comments. Nothing more nothing less. You have been arguing against your own strawman all along.

  34. @MoQ- ‘I made a position that Harry is a Racist Prejudice person based on his comments.’

    And that’s ok but it is wrong for ME to make the positions that I do about you based on your comments? LMAO!!

  35. @bigstick, MoQ: I’d greatly appreciate if both of you could take your dialogue to the debate page since it has nothing to do with the post. Thanks in advance for your understanding.

    @Lynn – I think I can get along with anybody…I’ll take on Mary and Joseph! (smile)

  36. @Lynn – you may also join MoQ and Bigfoot on the debate page!

  37. @ AB

    I am now bigfoot?

  38. @Lynn,

    You can take all the position you want on my comments. I never argued that. I argued that you are snicking to a very low level. It is very sad. What happened to you? Seriously….

    All you do is fight on this blog. All it took is for big stick to mention your name and like a WWE wrestler you took the tag and came out fighting. The sad part is I expected it.

    You know all of your name calling does not bother me personally. It is just sad to see a person get so bitter, that she spends her days trying to take people down. It is the pleasure you take in these comments aimed at attacking people that makes me feel sad!!!

    Reexamine your stance Lynn. You are becoming like the dark cloud of this blog. There is no day that goes by that you do not try to make someone feel bad.

  39. @Bedu,

    Sorry I commented before I saw your comment.

  40. Merry Christmas, Carol.

    Really folks, it’s NOT that difficult to celebrate Christmas for folks who aren’t Christians nor come from cultures that were not Christian-based.

    All my parents know is that Jesus was a baby that was born. And to them, the birth of every baby is celebrated.

    Along with real snow that makes Canadian Christmases fairytale-like (when we get snow), the magic of Christmas lights at night, celebratory dinner and an occasiona for family get togethers, it has MANY elements of other different cultural-religious festivals, worldwide.

    I’m sorry to hear that though Christmas has to be celebrated surreptiously in Saudia Arabia. Saudia Arabia cannot claim it has arrived as a democracy that is fully accepting of other established faiths.

    For all the criticism of the West and ultra-conservatism in some parts of North America, where there maybe misunderstanding of Islam, Islam can be practiced peacefully. At least where I’ve lived in Canada…and there are huge populations in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary where Islam is practiced.

    I mean really huge, in many thousands. You would be surprised in the Great White Snowy North.

  41. @Carol – Thanks for the invite but I don’t have time tonight for silly arguments. And sure, YOU would have no problems with Mary or Joseph, Joseph is very calm and Mary only hates his family when she’s drunk 😉

  42. I will edit and remove any more personal comments and attacks here.
    I request that people do not talk about third persons, please take it up in person.
    The name calling will be edited out. It needs to stop on this blog. It is pulling down the level of the blog.


  43. @bigstick – oh geez….my apologies. I had to go back and look at my comment. I guess it was a Freudian chemo slip.

  44. @ AB

    I was ribbing you a little. Sorry for the situation with MoQ.

    It just seems everytime I get into a conversation with him that he goes extreme. I get frustrated. He is extremely intelligent but difficult to have a discussion with. I know I have my issues, we all do. I just get frustrated that he loses his points by immediately going to the extreme. Hopefully, we will work it out on the debate page.

  45. @bigstick,

    That was a cheap shot. You apologize to Carol just to get an attack on me. Wow how low can you go man!!!

  46. MOM!! The boys won’t STOP IT!!!

  47. @ Moq:

    See comment on debate page.

  48. I miss my Saudi friends this Christmas. There is something nice about all coming together as refugees of our own traditions, away from our families back home.

    My Muslim friends always wished me a happy Christmas and let me take the day off work (tho I didn’t really give them the option :P). My Saudi friends were also very appreciative of the gingerbread and other Christmas dinner left overs that my partner took to work the next day.

    The Saudis aren’t animals. They are overall very tolerant of us foreigners and our traditions.

  49. Wow!!! Merry Christmas to everyone of you and that includes the children who clearly don’t know how to stop fighting. How on earth can one expect to find peace in warring countries when you lot can’t take a break. LOL!!! Some of you remind me of the kids in the video in Carol’s ‘bad gift’ video.

  50. Boko Harram is dedicated to implement Shariah law in Nigeria so they can use it to enslave women and wage war against non-Shariah compliant peoples.

    Just imagine what would happen through the Muslim World if Christians, Jews or Hindus attack Muslim mosques full of worshipers during a Muslim holy day.

    Anyone who still thinks Muslim and non-Muslim war is avoidable is living in total denial. Attacks on non-Muslims is likely to continue until states and groups get into the fray to defend their citizens and compatriots. Samuel Huntington’s book is worth revisiting.

  51. edited due to name calling


  52. too much hate on xmass,,,

  53. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays all ‘o ya’ll crazy folk! 😛

    I enjoyed celebrating Christmas with my family this year. My habibi seemed to enjoy the holiday festivities, too. 🙂 Our Muslim friends went out of their way to wish me a Merry Christmas, which I thought was very sweet! ❤ I hope all that celebrate are enjoying the day, and if you don't celebrate that you are at least having a good day! 🙂

    I can't wait to celebrate Eid next year, along with any other religious holidays my habibi is used to celebrating because our home is with each other. I want him to have fun and be at home with me. And yes, I made it a point to tell him this. 🙂

  54. Wendy….just because it is a holiday doesn’t mean truth needs to be shut down for the day. And I’m not fighting…just expressing an opinion after several years on this blog and watching how it works and all.

  55. And after reading the same thing over and over and over until everyone is sick of it I thought you might just leave it alone. Enough already and onto something else at least for a day.

  56. It is not reasonable to expect moderators to debate the reasons for taking actions. All arguments about moderation will end in the trash comments list.

    You have a way to contact Carol if you feel you are treated unjustly through her email address.

    This is not a debate.

    Blog Moderator #13

    PS Moderators are not responsible for providing a just outcome in every situation. They are not on 24×7. Their only goal is to move conversations in a positive direction when they get out of hand. Do no expect more.

  57. I would like to tell everyone that I had a great run on this blog for a while and wish you all the best. Carol I will be hoping for a miracle for you. However, due the recent censorship from your new moderators. I feel that I can no longer contribute to this blog.

    Good Bye to all. Wish you well.

  58. I also will not be commenting on this blog again. My comments have been deleted and there was nothing wrong in them to cause them to be censored.

    Too bad really…this use to be a great blog.

  59. Y’all don’t leave! I hate when people leave. 😦

  60. Coolred- I have always appreciated your comments and perspectives. You have real-life experience in an Arab country as both a female muslim and non-muslim. Your comments are valuable. You offer both practical and theroretical commentary based on your experiences. Not all commentators can offer that here.

  61. and now its namecalling to say some one a disbeliever !!

    folks leaving? matters least… .saudis dont comment here its a blog on saudi arabia .

  62. Ditto cred38 Me Too. Ditto bstick Me Too. Ditto s430. Ditto kristine.

  63. This isn’t about celebrating Christmas in the Kingdon, but since Saudi’s love social media I thought it might be good here. Someone sent this to me to show what Jesus’ birth would be like if it happened today with all the social media available…very funny! It moves fast and those not completely familiar with the story of the birth of Jesus might get a bit lost, but non the less it is very cute!

  64. Just read all the comments…certainly I will be sorry to see people leave , a few in particular will sadden me. I have been on here long enough that I can see how the tone has changed and it is sad. Makes me feel bad that people can’t argue and disagree without cutting each other down. People take offense easily…All of us are guilty of it at one point or another..some more than others. I can say for me, that this blog has been very interesting and I have learned a lot over the years. To you Carol I say thank you for that. I appreciated that your topics were varied and didn’t “play it safe”…you didn’t censor topics and IMO that made things interesting and sometimes heated. The difference is that a while ago, the bloggers were able to reign things in and not trample each other. I do think the tone has become harsh and unforgiving between those who comment. Before, everyone could argue and come back from it…now that doesn’t seem to be the case. Just the other day I was thinking about how we have lost some intelligent and interesting commentors and I miss their perspective…I hope that everyone will stay even if they think the moderation is unfair…the circumstances under which Carol finds herself are quite extraordinary and hopefully, temporary for the moment. If not I will miss some of you a lot and I wish you all well.

  65. Wow!!! I do not know how to begin on this issue of people being offended all the time.

    – Commenting on a web site is like visiting someone’s home. You do have more freedoms on the street leading to the home. However, once you enter the home you have to abide by the rules. The owner of the home does not even have to display those rules in a stone tablet at the door warning you of each rule. If you break rules that the home owner(s), you really do not have any option other than to accept it even if it does not fit with what you think the rules should be. It is actually impolite to continue arguing about their rules. Same applies to blogs. You have all the freedoms on the internet, but when you comment on a blog you have to follow the wishes of the owner. The owner also delegated some responsibilities to moderators and thus those become authority also.

    – Your other option is to say I do not like the rules and leave. Some commentators obviously chose that option. I think it is a fast knee jerk reaction to just being moderated. I do not think special detailed trials with briefs by each side should be held to uncover who is wrong and who is right in every argument. Moderation if done right does not consider that level of detail. Just get the negativity out of the way as quickly as possible. Arguing why moderators do their activities adds more negativity and is counter productive.

    – @bigstick: I know you think you are being picked on, but let me offer you a perspective. You have been on this blog for only a few weeks. During that time you have commented on almost every article. You have felt compelled to insert your self in every debate. Give yourself a break, you are not an expert on every topic. Further, you really do not understand the boundaries of arguing a point and attacking a person. Some of your personal attacks are moderated on this site. Mine did also. I took what I consider the wiser approach by accepting that the moderator has the right to do what he/she considered appropriate. We all comment on blogs because we want to share our ideas. Do not get me wrong, I sure will not miss your attacks and childish approach to arguments. However, I do not think it is rational for you to silence yourself over a couple of comments being moderated. At the end of the day it is your decision.

    – @coolred, I was here when you had your argument with Oni. I know you feel like you have not been treated fairly. However, consider that some of us actually saw through the attacks. Your reputation did not get destroyed by that, actually we all have respect for what you have accomplished against the odds. There are some commentators that actually scolded Oni for her comments (including Aafke), I looked back. In any event this was a year ago and I think you came out ahead. The issue is you have not let go. Almost every time there is moderation on the blog, you measure it against some expectation you have. My advice you should let go. It is your decision, but I do think you have commented too fast in reaction to bigstick. I do wish you reconsider and continue posting.


  66. Hi there! Thanks for your blog! My family and I are about to celebrate our first Christmas season in the KSA. You mentioned that you had seen Christmas ornaments here that were camels. Do you remember where you saw them? Would love to have something like that for our tree. Happiest of holiday seasons to you and your family!

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