Srinagar: Once banned, Christmas celebrations have finally arrived in Saudi Arabia. For the first time ever, Christians living in Saudi said they felt a ‘change in the air’ and that they could celebrate the festival freely.
Several media reports suggest that Christmas was widely celebrated in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Gazette even reported that on occasions, the employers too joined the celebrations.
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.
The Gazette also reported that 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.
A column in the Eurasia Review said the Christman celebrations in Saudi were part of efforts to position it with ‘moderate’ Muslim countries.
“The loosening is also part of an effort to position the kingdom as a beacon of Muslim moderation in competition with the UAE, Qatar, and Indonesia. While Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and democracy, is struggling with creeping conservatism, and Qatar is seeking to ensure football fans that it will welcome diversity of any kind during next year’s World Cup, the UAE has sprinted ahead by leaps and bounds,” it said.
As per reports, 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 for 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.
The New York Times too carried a piece with quotes of Christians living in Saudi Arabia feeling the change.
“I said, ‘Just a few years ago, this was all haram,’” one Ms. Aljishi was quoted as having said.
The reports also claimed that Christmas trees were sold in the markets even as other media reports suggested that Christmas tree imports were still banned.
There were also reports of celebrations of Christmas by the Indian community in Saudi Arabia.