Celebrating Christmas in Saudi Arabia: People feel the change

December 25, 2021
Shops in the Kingdom are also witnessing this year a boom in Christmas clothing for all age groups. (SG photo)
Shops in the Kingdom are also witnessing this year a boom in Christmas clothing for all age groups. (SG photo)

By Aljohara Zarea and Raghad Salem

Saudi Gazette

Christian expatriates in Saudi Arabia are celebrating Christmas in an air of festivity. This year, there has been noticeably an extra festive cheer in the air, especially after lifting of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Residents in the Kingdom are excited to celebrate every occasion in the current winter season and Christmas is, without doubt, a perfect outlet for the Christian community members.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, several Christian families shared their joy of celebrating the merriest time of their year. In the past, the Christian expatriates celebrated Christmas festivities, within their community, and in a very limited manner.

However, with the opening up of the Kingdom to more tourist and entertainment activities, celebrations displays and decorations can be easily spotted at malls, restaurants and cafes. In some places, the visitors might even hear the merry tunes of Christmas carol songs.

Filipinos and Indians, mainly hospital nurses and domestic workers, constitute the largest segment of the Christian community members in the Kingdom. They are savoring exceptional freedom to celebrate religious feasts this time.

And their happiness in marking Christmas is shared by Saudis and other expatriates. A number of Saudi families have proudly facilitated their Christian domestic help to celebrate the festival in their household premises.

Hatoon, a Saudi employer, shared with Saudi Gazette, the amazing experience of her family joining the celebrations of their Christian domestic worker.

“I love Elizabeth Ajigo, our expatriate worker from Uganda, so much and had allowed her to travel to her country every year to celebrate Christmas with her loved ones. But last year, she could not fly due to the suspension of flights following the outbreak of the pandemic,” she said.

Hatoon was proud to host a Christmas feast for Ajigo whom she considers as a family member. “My children and I decided to dedicate the Christmas day for her as we cooked ourselves the well-known traditional Christmas dinner after decorating the dinner table with Christmas colors.

“We took a lot of pictures of the celebrations and sent them to her family back home where they were so delighted and grateful for our efforts in making Ajigo enjoy the festivities of the solemn occasion of the year with us,” Hatoon said.

She noted that Ajigo is celebrating this year’s Christmas Eve with her family as she was able to fly back home following the Kingdom’s lifting of travel restrictions.

“We, Saudis, see it is our duty to respect others’ beliefs, as well as to take every opportunity, especially festival occasions, to appreciate and express our gratitude for them.

“It’s also incredible to have such an opportunity to reciprocate with infinite respect to Aligo when she used to join us in making our Eid festivals and occasion of Ramadan unforgettable experiences,” she added.

Recalling her amazing experience of celebrating Christmas for the first time in Saudi Arabia, Aligo said: “Celebrating Christmas in Saudi Arabia was nice and really amazing, as we cooked delicious food and made sweets and colored them to match the Christmas decorations.”

She has no words to articulate her gratitude to her employer and her family members for giving a fabulous Christmas treat at her second home in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, a number of Christian families expressed their excitement over the increasing opportunities to celebrate the festivities not only in their household gatherings but also in some of their consulates and similar venues.

Mini Sonny, an Indian nurse based in Jeddah since 2013, said that there are a number of shops where Christmas decorations are available in the city and she and many of her community members used to buy the decorations from these shops since several years.

“There has been a big increase in the number of such décor shops in recent years. Even the private gatherings of families and friends to mark the occasion of festivity are getting bigger and bigger with every passing of the year,” she said.

“We had our Christmas tree decorated a few days before December and it will remain illuminated and of course enlightening us until Jan. 15,” added Sonny Kottarakkara, husband of Mini.

It is noteworthy that several supermarkets and bakeries have joined the cheer of Christmas festivities with offering a wide range of products including candy canes and cakes in Jeddah and other Saudi cities.

Sales of Christmas decorations have been slowly introduced to more stores since the last few years. One can find most of what one needs, varying from Santa Claus outfits, coffee in a Christmas decorated cup, glittery baubles to reindeer figurines at their nearest gift shop, not to mention that one can even buy the Christmas Tree!

As hard as people might think it is to get a Christmas Tree in a Saudi city, it’s becoming easier with time. You can easily spot decorations and trees at gift shops some even display it at the forefront of the store.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, a worker at a gift shop in Jeddah said: “Nobody has asked us to display such decorations neither to take it out. People here are becoming more friendly with accepting change and respecting others needs.”

Shops in the Kingdom are also witnessing this year a boom in Christmas clothing for all age groups. Almost a third of the shops at malls sell a variety of sweaters, coats, and fuzzy socks. The colors red, green and white sure seem popular at the first glance this time during the last days of the year.

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