Oh Christmas Tree? Oh-Uh Black Market Christmas Tree!

Christmas decorations such as trees, ornaments and other holiday season decorations are pretty much non-existent in public during the holiday season in Saudi Arabia. Christmas is viewed as a Christian religious holiday and all items that celebrate it are supposed to be forbidden here. Christmas trees are viewed as religious or pagan symbols by many people around this neck of the woods and would most certainly be confiscated by the notorious Saudi religious cops were they to come across any. Despite the lack of holiday spirit in the public sphere, many expats and even locals celebrate the holidays in the privacy of their homes. Compounds will have Christmas bazaars going on starting from November where all the decorations can be found and bought. Scroll down to read where you can get christmas trees in Riyadh and how I found mine from the Black Market half-accidentally.

Oh Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thou tree most fair and lovely!
The sight of thee at Christmastide
Spreads hope and gladness far and wide
Oh Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
Thou tree most fair and lovely!

Saudi version:
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
thou tree most scarce and forbidden
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
where are thy branches hidden?
The sight of thee in Saudi-land
Spreads fear and loathing in the sand.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!

Thou tree most scarce and forbidden.

The only Christmas tree that I know of on public display in Riyadh was in Hayat mall and it was not even decorated. It’s pretty amazing how they pulled that one off without the Hai’a (Saudi religious police) having a say. Maybe there were too many women with nail polish around on that day for the religious police to notice anything else. My friend sent me this pic:

Christmas tree inside Hayat Mall in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. #dumbasses

I chuckled. How could the muttawa possibly miss this?

The only way I knew people got Christmas trees in Saudi was if they had shipped theirs in. Like my friend Nicole, also married to a Saudi, who managed to ship in a pretty large fake tree among her stuff from the States not so long ago. That’s why I had given up on the idea of ever having a tree here. But I knew I wanted one and especially because I want to share this childhood memory and Finnish holiday traditions with my children.

So here’s the story of how I found a “Black Market” christmas tree in Saudi Arabia.

How I found my own fake tree was by pure accident. I was in an area in Riyadh which could be called a ghetto, looking around for some decorations. We went there knowing they sell Christmas-sy decorations such as lights and those colorful frills people here use on Eid. I love having those beautiful lights in the house during the darker winter months.

I entered one of the shops that sells all sorts of tawdry stuff and plastic crap. In Finnish I would call it a rihkama store. The place was packed with people and I saw an entire shelf full of what could not be mistaken for anything else than Christmas ornaments. I was shocked a little but happy to have found them. Out of the blue I asked the salesman if they happened to have Christmas trees for sale.

The look on his face was as if I had just asked him for drugs.

The salesman turned red and whispered back to me, yes we do have as if he was letting me in on a state secret. I remained calm but inside I was now very excited. I had not expected this at all! Christmas trees for sale in Saudi-Arabia? No way!

I excitedly asked what sizes they had since I didn’t want to leave the store dragging a huge log behind me. He tried to show me the sizes with his hands while constantly eyeing the nearby Saudi customers with suspicion. He pretended to arrange some boxes around while doing it. I asked if the trees were decorated and did they have a stand. His nervous replies started to make me nervous too.

I told him I needed to see it before I could buy anything. The salesman hesitated but then motioned me to follow him. My heart was now beating faster as I realized my dream of having a cute little tree might come true after-all but at the same time I was nervous because the salesman was acting like we were about to commit a horrid crime.

It felt like he was a drug dealer about to show me his stash of cocaine.

The man walked to an aisle in the middle of the store fearfully glancing around, now visibly anxious and fidgety. He said “if any man with beard come, problem”.

I nodded and said mafi mushkila. He kneeled down and removed the screws that had been loosely placed on the bottom of the corridor shelves. The front came off and revealed the long cardboard boxes hidden inside.

Now two Saudi women walked by. The salesman scrambled quickly closing the door and stood up while I pretended to browse through the cheap alarm clocks on top of the shelf. I wondered what my husband would say about the tree.

The women finally left and the salesman opened the door again. I could see three different sizes of boxes. He asked me which one I wanted. I told him I would have to see the actual tree before purchasing, but I wanted the smallest one. He opened one of the boxes and showed me the top of the tree which in all honesty looked really darn crappy, but beggars are not choosers.

“Will you take it ma’m?” I told him yes, I will take “it”!

The man pulled the box out of its hiding place. Suddenly the box fell apart and a portion of the tree was now showing.

My heart almost stopped.

The salesman panicked and started shouting in Hindi to his co-worker while trying to hide the branches with his arms. The co-worker flew to rescue with two large white plastic bags.

With trembling hands they shoved the tree box in the plastic bag and placed another one on top covering all the green parts.

He told me he would take this “ahem” to the cashier to wait for me. Luckily it seemed as if the Saudi customers around the store were oblivious to our sneaky Christmas tree business and no bearded men were in sight.

With my heart still racing from the adrenaline rush this piece of green plastic had triggered, I tried to pick up some decorations for the tree. Strangely they were all out on display. I found colored pine cones, ball ornaments, frills and stars. One salesman even brought a big box of stars to me.

I wondered why it was acceptable to sell these ornaments but the actual tree was treated like the anti christ.

When I was done I apprehensively approached the cashier. I tried to wait for a moment when there was no queue but that was not going to happen on a busy evening like this. When my turn came I quickly handed him the basket full of tree decorations. He glanced around from the corner of his eyes and took the things directly into a plastic bag.

Next I wondered how I was supposed to tell him about “it”. I said there was ‘ahem ahem’ something for me here. I tried to look for the white plastic bag and noticed it stashed behind his chair. The cashier did not understand my code language for hidden christmas tree so I had to point to the bag and say I think that was mine. “Oh OK ma’m”. He did not even touch the bag.

At this point my husband suddenly rushed into the store. My first thought was my husband came to warn me about approaching muttawa but he wanted me to hurry up because the children were crying in the car. I pointed to the tree bag saying that’s ours. He asked, “are you sure? Why is it there?” I told him yes I’m very sure. So then my husband just threw it on his shoulder unknowing it was in fact a Christmas tree.

I tried to act normal but couldn’t help laughing at the situation and the very pale face of the cashier. My husband with the tree hanging on his shoulder asked what’s in here anyways? Weren’t you supposed to buy some candles? I told him “oh, nothing special, I will tell you later.”

So we ran to the car parked close by with the Christmas tree on my husbands shoulder. He opened the back door and threw the bag in. We ran not because we had just purchased a black market Christmas tree but because of the crying babies, but admittedly it might have looked suspicious. I giggled about the experience for a long time and managed to keep the tree as a surprise for my husband.

The next day I set up the tree and decorations. Although very small, it didn’t look too bad at all. My husband laughed when he saw it and realized that he had been running around the ghetto with a Christmas tree on his back!

I was happy to have this little reminder of my own culture and family traditions in my Saudi home.

For me Christmas was never a religious holiday, it’s a family tradition and a strong part of our culture. It’s all about just spending quality time with family, sharing gifts, eating some traditional Finnish foods which I have come to love.  It all reminds me of my childhood and the most cherished moments I have with my family are all from the seasons holidays!

 

P.S. I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t realize that christmas for most people living in western countries, is actually a cultural celebration and family tradition rather than a religious holiday.  There are even some who say  ‘celebrating’ christmas is like you’re worshipping some pagan god and having a tree has something to do with celebrating Jesus (pbuh) birthday! I personally find this quite ignorant, probably they never took the time to find out more about the holiday.

Yes, there are people around the world who do celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. They view Christmas as the birth date of baby Jesus (who is a Prophet in Islam too btw) For me personally and millions of others, the holiday has never had that aspect to it. Nowadays Christmas has become sadly very commercial and not as much the family holiday it used to be. Atheists and many people of other faiths (even Muslims) do celebrate Christmas too btw, which proves even more the point that it’s simply not a religious holiday for everyone.

I find it pretty hypocritical for Saudis for example, to start pointing fingers at christmas trees saying they are ‘pagan symbols’, when Saudi Arabia is in fact full of pagan symbols! The crescent moon and star have pagan origins, yet these symbols of moon god worshippers and goddess Diana can be seen on mosques all over Saudi Arabia. Just some food for thought.

moonworship symbol saudi mosque jpg

P.P.S. If you’re looking for a tree in Riyadh you might want to check and ask around the riyaleen stores in Um alhammam area and Deerah souq. Go to the Filipino stores area in Batha Also check the compound christmas bazaars and coffee mornings. 
 

 

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  • IldiDecember 28, 2012 - 7:49 am

    Haha Laylah, you made my morning at office again – what a fun to read your humorous post! You wrote well, buying a Christmas tree in strict Saudi Arabia equal like you would bought drug! You are lucky finally you could manage your sercet business. :) All respect go by you, what you decide, you manage all!ReplyCancel

  • NoorDecember 28, 2012 - 7:50 am

    Wow I can not believe the mall had one and that you also managed to find one here where as it in Buttah?

    My family sent Talal some gifts but I did not do anything. I do not want to confuse the poor kid as it is with his Saudi/American families.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 30, 2012 - 12:18 am

      Noor I'm still shocked also because HAyat mall is the favorite hangout place of Hai'a so how come they didn't notice THAT HUGE THING lol
      they really must have been preoccupied with the women.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 28, 2012 - 2:35 pm

    This reminds me of Nuh and his people. They were the First Nation to commit shirk. They thought what they were doing was good. Who was Nuh to tell them that they were wrong? How dare he try to impose his interpretation on them.

    Nuh preached to his peole for 950, to no avail, except a few.

    May Allaah guide you and maybe your followers will be guide, too, ameen.

    Wish you the best.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:24 pm

      Really, reminds you of Nuh and his people eh? Are you sort of trying to "subtly" say I'm committing shirk?

      When I come across Muslims like you I feel ashamed. Really ashamed..

      You didn't even have the decency to leave your name, but I know who you are..UMM..
      ReplyCancel

    • Umm Mu'awiyyahJanuary 1, 2013 - 4:59 pm

      As salaamu alaikum

      Yes, anonymous, may Allah guide Laylah, you, me and her followers to what is correct, ameen.

      Laylah, I came across this blog title while reading another blog. It listed the title of your post in the side bar. I saw you made mention to a Christmas song and wasn’t really sure what the post would be about. Subhan Allah, may Allah guide us as Muslims and allow us to worship Him correctly and with a sincere heart, ameen.

      The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa salaam) said, “He who imitates a people will be from among them (on the Day of Judgement).” Is this not imitation of Christians during their Holiday season? If not and if the tree has no sentimental/religious affiliation then why purchase the tree in December, around December 25, decorate it as Christians do, and place gifts (gift wrapped) under the tree. I think if you research the true tradition of this holiday (as well as others) you would be astonished to find a lot if not all Christian holidays have some roots or connection with shirk.

      Do have a look at this link:http://www.history.com/topics/history-of-christmas-trees
      to see how the Christmas tree has ties to the winter solstice (shirk), Egyptians who worshipped Ra (shirk), Romans and Scandinavians who believed the trees were sun gods (shirk), German settlers in Pennsylvania (Amish) who had trees but the trees were rejected by Americans who held the belief that the tree were pagan symbols, etc… I could go on and on. There are many links to be found. The Ulamah advise us from the West constantly during these holiday seasons because a lot of us may not know that these type of practices hold no place in Islam. There are two holidays: Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha and that is it.

      The point is Laylah, I do believe a few years ago a few sisters advised you to be mindful of your speech as you were new Shahadah. Still, years later you still persist… Understandable as I am a convert, revert whatever you would like to call me. I was a Catholic and it took years for me to develop my relationship with Allah and truly understand Tawheed and aqeedah (which by the way I am still learning).

      I implore you yaa Laylah to be mindful of your speech as one day you will be held accountable for all that you say and do. I don’t mean in any way to harm you with my speech but I do want to remind you of your responsibility to Allah, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.

      You constantly ridicule the Mutawwah for attempting to establish a level of decency in the Kingdom. Although their tactics may leave something to be desired for you, it is apparent they have some level of sound aqeedah and tawheed. I do believe the intend is to remove the society of those influences that slowly creep into a society that eventually change the society at the core until it becomes even unrecognizable to the original inhabitants.

      I do wonder why so many people move to Saudi, complain about the society knowing full and well how the society functions. Why not move to other Muslim countries who (may Allah guide them as well) allow the things you or others so desire…. fingernail polish in public, hair exposed, tight jeans being worn by the youth (male at that), etc.

      I come from a society where you these things are allowed and now there are so many immoral acts being committed.

      Please Laylah and this goes for myself more than it does for you because I am still learning about who Allah is and who He is not, continue to learn pure tawheed and aqeedah.

      I am sorry for the long speech but you write so many things that are offensive to Muslims, myself included. I have left of reading your blog for this very reason but again, came across this title and well…. You are my sister in Islam and I felt it an obligation to remind you and Allah knows best.

      ReplyCancel

      • AmeeraJune 10, 2016 - 6:44 am

        girl get a grip. Let her celebrate her culture.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 29, 2012 - 1:27 am

    In regards to the children what would you say to them? (i know their young but as they grow) Would you call it another Eid yet it has no islamic relevance? just curious as i know some sisters who totally avoid it to not confuse their children as it becomes hard to explain the xmas holiday without them later finding out that it actually is the celebration of Jesus’s birth date. Your thoughts would be appreciate.
    AngieReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:28 pm

      Angie-No I would not call it another Eid because that's not what it is. I would call it what it is and explain to them. Kids are smart and they won't be confused about it when explained properly.
      I don't see what harm there is in them finding out that yes SOME people out there do celebrate christmas as a religious holiday, of Jesus birth date. Fact is we do not, even though weReplyCancel

  • bigstick1December 29, 2012 - 2:47 am

    I heard the Saudi authorities arrested 41 people on a private compound for just planning a private Christmas party in a private home.

    So kudos for pulling it off.

    Take care and be careful on you next caper. :)

    ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:30 pm

      Yes I heard something like this too. I also heard Home Center was selling christmas trees openly :pReplyCancel

  • SoileDecember 29, 2012 - 11:18 am

    Funny story :-)

    I read Nicole’s blog post too, and the link she had to somebody explaining their view on Christmas celebrations. I thought it was really spot on. My mother is really religious (christian), while the rest of us aren’t. She has never imposed it on us, though we were in Sunday-school as kids. My mum celebrates Christmas for it’s true meaning, for the rest of us it’s just a time to enjoy good food and some special time in the company of our families, and a time to be grateful for what we have. I don’t see why it would be a problem for Laylah to take the cultural aspect of Christmas from her past, and integrate it to her new life, and create a different tradition for her family.

    BTW, when I was in Saudi and dating a guy, he really wanted to get me a red rose for Valentine’s Day. He managed, but also described it as almost like buying drugs :-)ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:31 pm

      Yes I agree with everything Nicole wrote she said it so well!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 29, 2012 - 12:49 pm

    I don’t understand how it would be confusing for the children to celebrate also Christmas. I live in another Muslim country and here Muslims celebrate Christmas, too. After all, Jesus is one of the Prophets in Islam. This is also why I find it weird that Saudi Arabia is banning it.

    Anyway, merry Christmas to all, and a happy new year.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:32 pm

      Thanks, same to you! Which country is that?ReplyCancel

  • Lisa MayrDecember 29, 2012 - 2:08 pm

    ignore the typerä saudis' talk. your story is funny yet sad. i am sure that saudis are not educated enough to know that the tree has absolutely nothing to do with jesus. please take care and come back to europe soon! Hyvää Uutta Vuotta!ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:36 pm

      Lisa Mayr-Funny enough most of the judgmental and "holier than thou" people commenting and judging me here are people who used to celebrate christmas themselves. Saudis are much more tolerant and open minded than these people. They are converts from western countries whose favorite hobby is to put others down and give Islam and Muslims a bad name in the process. So they are actuallyReplyCancel

  • DianneCDecember 29, 2012 - 2:52 pm

    Well at least my efforts to get a tree in Jeddah were not quite so exciting – although there was the trip to the second floor, far back corner, through the locked gate and into the secret locked back storage room where they were assembled (along with other things containing Santa etc) for you to view and choose. Then it was all wrapped in newspaper and taken to the register in a similar pantomimeReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:38 pm

      DianneC-that sounds funny! I guess muttawa need more courses on what christmas decorations look like :pReplyCancel

  • bigstick1December 29, 2012 - 5:48 pm

    To Anonymous December 29, 2012 4:27 am

    It is the celebration of the winter solstices and on the third day the sun rises again. Now remember that as the third day the sun rises again winter solstice lasts for three days typically from December 21 to the 24. So the sun is born again on the 25th. It shouldn't surprise you that when Christ died he rose again after 3 days if youReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 29, 2012 - 11:43 pm

      Bigstick-wow that is lot of info on the history of Christmas! I'm having an information overload over here :)
      Question, do you as an atheist celebrate christmas? I know many atheists that do.

      Honestly I don't even care about where the origins of some traditions are from. Too much to think about when all I want is to spend some quality time with family eating nice foods,ReplyCancel

  • HopeDecember 29, 2012 - 8:53 pm

    What happens in someone's private home is their business. I am not sure why people are always interfering with people's own personal life. Layla has explained that Christmas has no religious significance and its all culture and tradition. For her, having a christmas tree brings warm memories of her childhood, her family and her homecountry. Her husband had no issue and understands theReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 29, 2012 - 11:00 pm

    Christmas Tree is traditionally a symbol of eternal life and the lights and
    the star on top of the tree symbolize the birth of Jesus Christ. We give gifts just like the 3 wize man gave gifts to baby Jesus. Christmas is a Christian Holiday. Nowadays lot of people just forget the true meaning and just do the comercial side and call it "cultural"… SAD
    ReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 30, 2012 - 12:16 am

      If it's a christian holiday why do atheists in western countries celebrate it?
      What's commercial about spending quality time with the family?ReplyCancel

    • SandyJanuary 3, 2013 - 8:23 pm

      Read up on the Saturnalia, Winter Solstice practices, the feast of St. Nicholas, the Epiphany and Yule Christmas traditions are borrowed from other practices.
      ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1December 30, 2012 - 12:33 am

    Laylah:

    Yes I celebrate humanity's events which encapsulates our past, present and future. I just don't agree with some of the associated beliefs. :)

    Visit my site as I have putting up some stuff that you might like. :)

    This is a time worth celebrating as it is a time of family, good friends and enjoyment of the fleeting moments of life that we haveReplyCancel

  • Umm GamarDecember 30, 2012 - 9:52 am

    Salam Laylah, I dont think it is fair to say Muslims who wish to remind you have miserable lives. I for one hold the belief that any culture that conflicts with Islam is Haram whether it used to be my culture or not. Islam for me is more valueble than any past cultures Christmas or what not. Islam has its own holidays and being Muslims we should remember the prophet commands us to distinguishReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarDecember 30, 2012 - 9:58 am

      One more thing, I think cultures are so beautiful and appreciate them.but we should always be careful to avoid cultures that goes out of the folds of Islam. There are good and bad aspects of culture but for us Muslims, Islam comes first. And Christmas, unfortunately, goes against the aqeedah in Islam even if the niyah is just to have fun as due to its origins. It shouldnt matter if the atheistsReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 30, 2012 - 11:57 am

      There are people that come to this blog and comment without any respect for other opinions (yes people can have different opinions on things such as what is "proper" hijab or what does christmas mean)and you don't get to always see all those miserable comments because I delete many. Also there's some that come just for the purpose to judge me. So yes I think there'sReplyCancel

    • LaylahDecember 30, 2012 - 12:07 pm

      Umm Gamar you are twisting my words I did not say ALL Muslims who say that have miserable lives. I think you know me better than that. Like I said before I meant those rude know it all holier than thou attitude muslims that can sometimes be seen here. Nothing wrong with someone nicely saying things, but it won’t change my opinions.

      For example the person that commented as anon that talked about shirk is very judgmental.

      We obviously disagree on this matter but I respect your opinion.ReplyCancel

    • Umm GamarDecember 30, 2012 - 5:24 pm

      I don’t mean to offend you Allah, I do know you better than that. I too dislike when fellow Muslims judge and give advice in a rude way as it turns people away from Islam. Well, as long as we are here I wish you all the happiest of times ;-)
      excuse my poor comment as I’m in bed feeling foggy.ReplyCancel

    • Umm Mu'awiyyahJanuary 1, 2013 - 5:25 pm

      Laylah I do believe there is a way to advise and a way not to advise. I don’t believe it should be harsh unless and of course one persists in their sin and I am not saying this is the case.

      Some times there are others who know more than we do about Islam. So, advise may go over our heads because they have an understanding about certain principles in the religion that some of us don’t have. You do seem to take a strong position against the Muslims as opposed to the Christians even in this post. It may be because their comments are in line with how you feel about Christmas or the responses on your blog.

      What seems to be apparent is that their is a lot you still have to learn. I do not mean to offend you as there is a lot I need to learn myself. But… you put yourself on a public forum and your (at times) ridicule the Muslims. Honestly and again, for myself it has been a turn off to reading your blog.

      I’m still confused as to why you purchased the tree as this is not a Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah.

      I would recommend you read the books Ussool ath Thalaatha, Kitab ul Tawheed, Aqeedah Wasitiyyah, Nawaaqid ul Islam, etc… I think this would give you a better understanding as to why people are offended, insulted and insulting from and to you. I do not say that it is right because the purpose is to enjoy the good and forbid the wrong and there is a method in the way this should be done.

      And to the responder about Hajj. It does not have pagan origins. It was held over from before the advent of Muhammad but was pure in nature starting with the Prophet Ibrihim (Abraham) it was the ignorant Arabs during that time that introduced paganism to the Hajj and thus the reason that the Prophet Muhammad (salaallahu alayhi was salam) came and destroyed the pagan idols.

      No one wants to destroy anyone having a good time but Islam is perfect (although the people are not) and everything has been legislated and prescribed for us.

      I think the most important thing that comes to mind with this is knowledge. Knowledge should come before actions. This is not a religion based upon desires, what feels good and what is fun. This religion is based upon knowledge. Of course we have fun as Muslims, but there is a time for this and a time for that and with knowledge you are assured to free yourself from the “hate mail” you have been receiving but more importantly you free yourself from making mistakes in worshipping Allah and following the Sunnah of His beloved Prophet (salaallahu alayhi wa salaam).

      In closing, Laylah you are this blogs owner and being such, you have a tremendous responsibility to all of your readers, Muslim and non Muslim. My advice is to make sure you project what is correct from Islam so that this blog can weigh heavily on your scale on a day when we will all be in need of some good. Use your blog to educate people and if you don’t have the ability, I would suggest leave it off.

      May Allah guide you, me and all of your readers to the truth, make us love it and spread it in the Earth, ameen.ReplyCancel

    • SandyJanuary 3, 2013 - 8:20 pm

      Assalamu Alaikum,
      It would seem to me that you should start your own blog if you would like to present your own understanding of Islam -rather than to presume you understand it better than the writer of this blog. I am sure you believe you are more correct than Layla- but I see no reason to believe that is true. I see a very judgemental post full of preaching to someone who does not appear to be in need of – or to have asked for any guidance and from someone who doesn’t seem qualified to give it especially when she wasn’t asked.ReplyCancel

  • Steven BrownDecember 30, 2012 - 6:11 pm

    laylah, I LOVE THIS :) I am so following your blog. I hope you can check out my site: http://theproverbs.net and join. So, we can keep up to date with each others. Thanks for your time. Hope you see joining…God Bless!

    Steven :)ReplyCancel

  • DampTrampCoutureDecember 30, 2012 - 8:56 pm

    lol girl power!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousDecember 30, 2012 - 8:57 pm

    This is great. Girl power! lol.ReplyCancel

  • Jerry Mc KennaDecember 30, 2012 - 11:42 pm

    It looks as if many Muslims wish to find fault with anything that can be considered fun, even if it isn’t being done for religious reasons. Given the importance of old religions in most cultures one can probably find a religious root for most everything. The names of the days of the week come from various no longer worshipped deities. Should that be an issue?
    The Islamic hajj is a holdover from pre-islamic Arabia, so it too has pagan roots. So, Muslims, chill out and allow others to have a bit of fun.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJanuary 2, 2013 - 9:22 pm

      Hi Jerry thanks for the comment. indeed if we start looking at things more closely and analyzing many would be an issue. What about TV? Is that not an issue with the images?And how about the WWW full of images and mixing with men! What are these people doing online, it’s a western innovation anyways.

      I wish people would just live and let live.
      ReplyCancel

  • JeanDecember 31, 2012 - 6:40 pm

    I really enjoyed this post…about a harmless fake tree. :)

    Wishing you a pleasant Christmas and holiday with your family. We just returned from several days of mountain snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies.ReplyCancel

    • LaylahJanuary 2, 2013 - 9:23 pm

      Hi there Jean,indeed harmless, same to you!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 1, 2013 - 6:27 pm

    Dear Laylah, it’s wonderful that you take the best from the european culture for yours and your family life.
    Some people do not understadn how so called Christmas (I mean THAT special time) is important for our culture and how strong it gathers the families. Such holidays are necessary for the society. This context of Christmas is really unique and valuable. We grow up waiting for these special days, for the atmosphere of love, forgiveness, peacemaking and calm reflection on the meaning of life. Nobody should judge it.

    I am muslim, but I use to celebrate the Christmas just for the reasons above. This is a part of my tradition independent of religion. I prepare the traditional meals and set my tree up for joy and family time. I had never believed before in Jesus’s birthday, in my family we had used to avoid the church’s celebration with it’s pathetic climat. But it’s important for other people and I can understand and respect it.

    God is mercyful so be the same if you have a problem with acceptation or understanding of differences :)

    With all my love from Poland

    NadiaReplyCancel

    • LaylahJanuary 2, 2013 - 9:28 pm

      Hi Nadia thanks for the comment! Celebrating christmas brings joy and warm memories to me..only God knows our intentions and sees into hearts.ReplyCancel

  • ShannonJanuary 3, 2013 - 3:44 am

    Good on you Laylah. I understand your tie to family tradition. Keep doing what you are doing.

    Saudi’s live in fearful oppression (until they come abroad to study). They are bound by dogmatic thinking, and unable or too lazy to question what they’ve been taught (in rhote format). I’m speaking as an international educator. It is a tree for goodness sake.

    Thanks for an amusing read!ReplyCancel

  • Drama QueenJanuary 4, 2013 - 11:00 am

    Hi Laylah, I’m honestly jealous and happy for you being so strong and having an understanding husband. I know other Muslim women in the Gulf married to khaleejis who set up a decorated fur-tree and prepare gifts for their children, some celebrate it on New Year’s Eve ( CIS tradition).ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 4, 2013 - 9:08 pm

    Hahahaha ….. !!! So funny story ! Greetings and wishes from Athens ! We’re (still) celebrating Christmas and New Year ! I wish to you next year to be at your beautiful country to celebrate real X”mas ! Yassu ! (Bye)ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 5, 2013 - 12:43 am

    Umm Muawiyah- wa aleikum salaam.
    I waited many days to calm down before I allowed myself to reply to your judgmental comments because they really upset me.Not only because of how your tone is so condescending but because how you present Muslims to the world.

    First I thought I won’t publish them at all, then I thought what the heck, let the world see what kind of “sisters advising other sisters in Islam” there can be.

    BTW do you realize that already THOUSANDS of people read your comments, and you have possibly put off HUNDREDS of people off Islam by your judgmental comments?
    Think about it..And more will come..

    First off I want to comment on “may Allah guide Layla and her followers”. What are you exactly implying here? That I’m some sort of cult leader? Had to laugh out loud at that one!

    Then you mention shirk. Did you not know that it’s pretty much the worst thing you can falsely accuse someone of? Or you think that does not apply to you since you seem to think of yourself so highly.

    We all learn new things all the time. You don’t have to talk to me like I have no clue about anything. Just because I practice Islam different than you, doesn’t mean I’m totally clueless. I’m not an expert on anything and haven’t claimed to be, but I don’t go on other people’s sites and start judging them on how they practice.
    I’m not that kind of person you see.

    You are saying all these things because I don’t happen to think like you do. I’m not a Salafi.
    It seems to me Salafis only accept one way of thinking and everything and everyone else is just wrong and need “reminding and correcting”.
    And they even think they are earning brownie points for doing so when actually they are only doing a disfavor.

    I have no idea why you are dragging the muttawa into this monologue of yours, not even going to start on that one.

    You said:
    “I do wonder why so many people move to Saudi, complain about the society knowing full and well how the society functions. Why not move to other Muslim countries who (may Allah guide them as well) allow the things you or others so desire…. fingernail polish in public, hair exposed, tight jeans being worn by the youth (male at that), etc.”

    No seriously where did you come up with that one?Seems like you DO read my blog more than you are trying to make it seem like here :)

    I myself do wonder why so many people come to this blog, complain about the way I see things knowing full and well it is different from what they think is the one and only truth. Why not move to other blogs that (may Allah guide them as well) allow the things you or others so desire….wearing black gloves in public, backbiting, judging people less holy etc.

    If something other people do in the privacy of their homes can somehow offend you then..I’m sorry but that is your own personal issue you might want to deal with in the privacy of your own head.

    The world already is full of Muslims that need to take a huge dose of CHILL PILLS, swallow and then mind their own business.
    ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 5, 2013 - 1:07 am

    Umm Muawiya-This comment of yours really sums up how you think of Muslims who think in any other way than you do. It is just so condescending and arrogant, I feel even a little sorry for you.

    “Some times there are others who know more than we do about Islam. So, advise may go over our heads because they have an understanding about certain principles in the religion that some of us don’t have. You do seem to take a strong position against the Muslims as opposed to the Christians even in this post. It may be because their comments are in line with how you feel about Christmas or the responses on your blog.”

    I have never taken a position against “the Muslims”, that is just utter nonsense and your interpretation of things.
    Life is not about “us vs them” you know.

    “with knowledge you are assured to free yourself from the “hate mail” you have been receiving but more importantly you free yourself from making mistakes”

    Yes, Umm M, knowledge according to what YOU believe is correct.
    Why is it so hard to accept that people just believe differently? Is it for you to judge what is correct? You have your own conclusions, I have mine.
    Why can’t you just let it rest and leave it to that? WHY???
    The hate mail is never going to stop because it will always keep coming from people like you who just can’t respect others opinions.

    Unless I become a Salafi your kind will not be satisfied with what I write. There will always be something to nitpick on, trust me I have seen how sisters attack each other on online forums. Very sad. And extremely off-putting if not disgusting the amount of back biting and name calling I’ve seen on Muslim forums has been just unbelievable. All because of this same attitude.

    I’m so lucky I found Islam before I found the online bully muslims!

    SO you think I should use my blog to educate people about Islam? and if I’m not able then just to leave it off? So only blogs that preach your way of Islam are allowed? What about blogs that try to help people in other ways, such as how to live a more happy life in Saudi-Arabia? Trying to see the positives in life here and exploring this country that has a lot of hidden beauty to it are some of the things that I can write about with confidence. I am not a religious scholar and I have no intention to teach people about Islam here, because the internet is full of sites that can be visited for that purpose.ReplyCancel

  • UnderTheAbayaJanuary 5, 2013 - 5:29 pm

    Love the picture of your tree, Laylah! Maybe next year I’ll try to smuggle myself some lights or some decorations into the country, since we have year-round christmas stores back home.

    On another note, I’m always perplexed by Muslims who take it upon themselves to “advise” others, even when advice wasn’t asked or called for. Where I come from, that’s the number one criteria for being (for lack of a better word) an asshole. No one likes it when someone offers an unwanted or unsolicited opinion, be it toward their fashion preferences, their taste in music or film, their stance on politics, or their religious or cultural expressions. But nevertheless, converts have this terrible habit, almost like a disease that takes over the brain and does away with whatever manners their “kafir” society may have taught them before, of sticking their noses where they don’t belong and offering up their newly acquired knowledge. And I use the term knowledge lightly. Please, fellow Muslims, come to grips with the concept that with 1.2 billion of us on the globe, not EVERYONE will believe the same things that you do, not everyone will interpret Quran the same way that you do, and it is NONE of your business. You, not Laylah, are giving Islam a bad name. And YOU as well will have to answer for your actions, your words, and for turning people AWAY from Islam by acting like you know it all. Get a life. Seriously.ReplyCancel

  • Aafke-ArtJanuary 5, 2013 - 6:58 pm

    Great story!
    Sometimes I think life in SA must be so exciting, all these contraband objects and black market practices. You are brilliant for having scouted a christmas tree in Riyadh!

    And it looks lovely.
    And I am glad you are strong and steadfast enough in your belief that you can keep on enjoying your own cultural family celebrations.

    It is sad to see so many people who swap faiths and yet cannot muster the strength to really believe in it, and to see them flapping around the internet like great black bats trying to take the joy out of the life of other people because they are not as troubled in their minds and in their faith….

    I hope they can overcome their problems and start opening up again for a bit of fun every now and then…ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 7, 2013 - 12:50 pm

    Well, Saudi is an Islamic state (well…) and I find it very unlikely that, for example,the Vatican would allow Islamic celebrations or Islamic symbols to be visible and certainly not pay for it with tax money or allow Muslims to wasit money on that while there are Muslims and other people who are starving… And yes; An elephamt os an elephant regardless of how you wish it to be a horse. Christmas is (nowadays at least) about celebrating Jesus’ birth, son of God and God himself who dies for our sins. That is shirk. There is nothing “subtle” about that :)ReplyCancel

  • LemmyJanuary 7, 2013 - 4:36 pm

    Good story.

    It is true though, most of the “Western Tradition” of Christmas is quite recent and what I call a “Coca-Cola Christmas”, but its a global synthesis of many traditions. The German Christmas tree is a quite recent adopted tradition, and was looked upon as “heathen” for quite long. Well, getting any cultural celebration internationally adapted has its slight problems, like with the Japanese cards depicting a crucified Santaclaus… They got a bit of it all wrong…

    If you go into Finland, the Yule-Goat is who you have visiting and the baby Jesus is a bit of a pasted-on addition. Well, the Yule-Goat only has his name left, and has put on the bishop’s red gear inherited by the coca-cola Santa. The “original” is with a turned fur coat and dons a scary mask with horns and beard…. now try pass that character these days!

    If you look at Finland, there was no tradition really of Halloween. People have recently picked up on it though, gives a good excuse to have some party and fancy dress in the darkest time of the year.

    Funny thing, but ever imagined if we reversed the roles? Imagine Finnish Muttawa. They would be promoting “Finnish culture”, or rather their idea of it, they would ban Eid as well, and during the fasting there would be mandatory public eating of bacon for people looking hungry!
    Now who could be objecting to that?
    Now if someone would start even suggesting banning Halloween in Finland, they would be deemed “racist”.

    Some Christian sects do not celebrate birthdays at all, and celebrating Christmas wouldn’t be “Christian” for them. The Communists wanted to get rid of religion, but in Russia a White-Clad old man with a flowing beard comes accompanied by a little child… be it “Frost Man” who is a shaman of the Siberian natives there synthesised with St.Nicholas or not. Its very dull without parties. I wonder if next we’ll start adapting other festivals like the Indian Holi – now thats colorful as well as fun!

    And no, I don’t celebrate Christmas, but if people wish to do so I don’t object. After all, their imaginary fellow in the sky might get angry and throw a hot stone on my head.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 7, 2013 - 8:35 pm

    Very funny post! I’m sorry you had to go to all that trouble just to get a Christmas tree, but I’m sure you appreciated it so much more for your effort! Special days mean different things to different people and whatever Christmas means to you, I hope you had a lovely day.

    Sophie (I come here and read and comment occasionally).ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 9, 2013 - 10:46 am

    Dear Layla

    I understand its hard for you to leave Finnish culture behind you.Many warm memories.

    Still we should not put our culture and traditions before the law of God.Christmas is not a Muslim holiday and it never will be.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for long time now.But your recent negativity towards religious people,teaching and morals of Islam have put me off.

    This life is just duniyah.Try to remember that.Be nicer to your readers who don’t agree with you and admit that you can be wrong too.Just like the readers!No one is perfect,sah?

    I wish you all the best in life.But I think it’s time for me to leave your blog.As unfortunately it brings not joy,but frustration into my heart.

    Take care and inchAllah you’ll find peace with your religion

    EmanReplyCancel

    • RawyahDecember 12, 2013 - 12:16 am

      My thoughts exactly. We must always put belief before culture and tradition.
      A Christmas tree even though it was originally not part of Christmas, has now become one of it’s major symbols. Celebrating Christmas, which is a christian holiday, is against our beliefs as Muslims. We love all prophets and respect all religions but we do not celebrate their holidays nor do they celebrate ours.ReplyCancel

      • RawyahDecember 12, 2013 - 12:36 am

        Last sentence correction: We do not celebrate non muslim holidays and they do not celebrate ours.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 9, 2013 - 4:02 pm

    I write anonymously only cause I dont have an account here…
    Yes, Christmas is a Christian Holiday. Google that… If atheists in western countries celebrate it, like I said they just have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. They just want the commercial side of it. To them it has nothing to do with religion.
    Yes, sadly lot of people really just care about that commercial stuff. Do you know how much money an average family spends that time of the year? If you want to spend quality time with your family, you should not need money to do that? Or Christmas. You should be able to spend your quality time with your family any weekend of the year.
    Christmas has another special meaning why people come together. I hope you teach your children that, since you think they will understand if they are properly explained.
    And if Christmas is a Cultural thing to YOU, dont say “most Finns”. That is simply not true. 80% of Finns are Christian and celebrate Christmas for its true meaning. If they dont go to church any other day of the year: at Christmas churches are full. You know, its “Cultural” what you make for dinner that night or how you decorate your house. Not WHY you celebrate Christmas.

    ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 9, 2013 - 7:50 pm

    Interesting comments, thank you everyone. I will not get into the debate anymore about what Christmas is, what it ‘really’ means or where it comes from because just reading this thread would have a person hearing about it for the first time VERY confused as to what the truth is..

    Why, because we all have our own perceptions, emotions and conclusions about this holiday.
    So lets all just leave it to that shall we :)

    ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1January 10, 2013 - 3:43 am

    Interesting comments, thank you everyone. I will not get into the debate anymore about what Christmas is, what it ‘really’ means or where it comes from because just reading this thread would have a person hearing about it for the first time VERY confused as to what the truth is.

    Layla:

    Regarding this post above, I want to tell you that you have every right to discuss your perspectives and your perceptions as that is what freedom of expression and speech is all about.

    You have every right to your opinion and your space and your thoughts. This blog is about you and if the readers cannot accept that then they can simply turn the channel. You need to be true to who you are and what you believe in and your ways are not mine or someone else. Never forget that what makes you special is your thoughts, your experiences, and your perception of life. In this blog you have offered a great deal of yourself by inviting people into your inner circle. What you have given is also a gift to many people. That is how you should view it.

    As you and I have disagreed on many things and will continue to do so. I still respect your right to view it your way, even if at times that is frustrating. However I think you and I have agreed on a great deal of other things. It is these differences that make life interesting and in these differences we can strengthen commonalities and forge new and adventurous roads.

    The thing is………… you can’t do that if you allow others to put your flame out. It burns bright and it is worth burning.

    Take care.

    ReplyCancel

  • The Belle VidaJanuary 25, 2013 - 2:27 pm

    this made me lol. haha so much drama over a plastic tree! i think some people need to calm down, its a tree, its not like you are going to church and praying. maybe if you explain u are celebrating the commercial side and not religious side people won’t feel the need to lecture..but they probably would anyway lol!ReplyCancel

  • LaylaJanuary 26, 2013 - 4:32 pm

    Thank you for this Bigstick and sorry for the late reply! I had wanted to reply sooner but had to run somewhere and then forgot..story of my life right now!
    Thank you for these encouraging and wise words!

    ReplyCancel

  • DesertcanuckJanuary 29, 2013 - 3:18 pm

    Love the story of your Christmas tree purchase. It’s almost an exact play-by-play description of my Christmas tree purchase in 2011. I had some Australian friends visiting me in my home for Christmas and I was spending my first Christmas ever outside of Canada. I was so happy to find my little tree and to spirit it off into the trunk of my car. That little tree pretty much single-handedly saved my Christmas spirit that year. Your story put me straight back into the very same moment. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 15, 2013 - 5:59 pm

    I am a stern Atheist, and like Layla, I am also from Finland.

    The Muslim lady who said here how us Atheists a “morally flimsy” , e.g, we have no morals whatsoever because we are not religious…..I find this extremely insulting to me as an Atheist.

    I try to live a good, modest life: I give money to charity every month, I respect nature and the environment, I volunteer in charity work, I don´t drink, smoke or do drugs and I deeply respect and cherish my husband & family.

    How dare you say these things, that we Atheists are “immoral”? Morality is what choices and deeds we do and make – not whether we believe in God or not.

    Also, most of us Atheists also celebrate Christmas. To the Christians it is indeed a Christian holiday, but we Atheists recognize the fact that this holiday has been celebrated in Europe far earlier, before Christianity even came here.

    Christmas to us is a celebration of family, of remembering of what´s good in our lives, it brings us all together and enjoy each other´s company, and it is also a celebration of our culture, heritage and a way to “return to our roots”. Many people also give charity for the poor during this time.

    You are a very devout Muslim – you should also respect the culture and traditions of others before judging them. You do far more damage to Islam with your condescending, and disrespectful remarks than any person who brings a Christmas tree to his home. I see that Miss Layla has a good heart and is a good, honest person. You are far more damaging to Islam that she is.

    If all the Muslims were like you, then I am indeed thankful and grateful that I am not a Muslim. Like Jesus Christ said,

    ““Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

    As Jesus is also highly respected prophet in Islam, I advise Umm Muawiya and others like her, to take heed of this and return to the core values of Islam – being respectful and show mercy to your fellow people.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaFebruary 16, 2013 - 9:41 am

      Thank you for your reply.
      Spot on.
      I will use this in a future post if that’s alright with you?ReplyCancel

  • AsiaAugust 20, 2013 - 8:12 am

    The comments on this post lies the very reason why we have horrifying wars and terrible human tragedies in this world.
    Why instead of forcing our own beliefs to other people, respect them and see them as an individual who has his/her own life experiences that are very different to our own?
    So what if a Muslim woman decided to buy a tree and spend quality time with her family. Does thatReplyCancel

  • W. DoerrDecember 24, 2014 - 7:59 pm

    Loved the article. Hated most of the comments…especially the ones composed by the poorly educated nitwits (like Umm Mu’awiyyah).

    Attention Saudis: When you run out of oil, you’re screwed. The world (even Muslim countries) hate your “leaders” and their closed-mindedness, outright cruelty, and lack of respect for others…the very people actually developing and operating your country while you eat dates and pick your toes.

    Royal Decree 44? You must be joking.ReplyCancel

  • […] meet secretly in private houses.  The wearing of a crucifix or cross is banned.  Even the humble Christmas tree is forbidden!  Religious police patrol the streets to enforce their interpretation of Islamic law. […]ReplyCancel

  • Wandering Expats RiyadhNovember 10, 2015 - 6:41 am

    The Wandering Expats are hosting their Second Annual ‘”That Special December Party.” Tickets Go on Sale November 16th 6-9 PM. Other dates of ticket sales to follow. Jarir Starbucks on King Abdullah Road. Only 50 tickets Available. 110 riyals each and a gender neutral gift worth 35 riyals.ReplyCancel

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