Haram Halloween in Saudi-Arabia

It’s surprising how many people in Saudi-Arabia are planning to have Halloween parties this weekend. Officially the country does not celebrate other than the religious holidays and Saudi National Day. Holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s and Halloween are considered as pagan holidays and are striclty forbidden in the Kingdom. According to Islamic teachings Muslims are not supposed to celebrate other occasions than Eid-al Fitr which is the celebration when Ramadan is over and Eid al Adha which is celebrated after Hajj ends. Many Saudi families don’t even celebrate their children’s birthdays let alone Mother’s Day (although Islam highly values mothers) because they think it’s all haram (forbidden).

Year by year Halloween celebrations are growing in popularity in the Kingdom, Most of the Halloween celebrations in Saudi are hidden from public view at kids private parties and expat gatherings on compounds and embassies. Halloween decorations are extremely hard to find in stores, although surprisingly, I did find many western chains like H&M, Mothercare and Pottery Barn selling Halloween costumes for children.

The CPVPV also known as muttawa are notorious for hating all things “western” or pagan and are currently going around shopping malls looking for any items resembling Halloween festiveness to confiscate. Read this post if you want to learn more about muttawa raiding shopping malls. I’m guessing pumpkins will be banned from grocery stores this week just like red roses are forbidden around Valentine’s Day.

Most western compounds and the U.S embassy will host very popular Halloween parties for expats. I’ve seen people showing up in traditional Saudi clothing. Men would have thobes and ghutra and women abaya and niqab(face veil) or sometimes only the niqab but combined with something like a sexy minidress.

I don’t think its smart to dress in traditional Saudi clothing for a Halloween party in Saudi and getting drunk in the process. That’s like mocking and ridiculing the very culture you live in. Also, it’s making fun of other people’s religious beliefs. This Halloween there’s this campaign called “We’re a culture not a costume” launched by students from the Ohio University. Check out the pictures here: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/10/26/living/halloween-ethnic-costumes/index.html# They call for sensitivity when it comes to dressing up in another cultures traditional attire. They campaign against stereotypes and racism that culturally insensitive costumes create.

The campaign has a picture of a white guy wearing ghutra and thobe with bombs attached to his chest. I think that’s definitely crossing the line. Here is a link to their site “Students Teaching about Racism in Society“.http://www.ohio.edu/orgs/stars/Home.html I have to say I totally agree with this campaign even though I’m not some religious fanatic or uptight person. I don’t consider my own culture as superior to others. I don’t have any problems with making jokes of my own culture’s stereotypes and poking fun at our funny habits.

I consider myself a pretty relaxed person with sometimes a very sarcastic sense of humor but sometimes there’s a limit to what’s funny and what’s simply tasteless. Many expats in Saudi of course miss Halloween celebrations from home. People have fond memories of Halloween as a kid and they want to celebrate it even though they are in Saudi. I don’t see anything wrong in that as long as people don’t start sneering at their Saudi hosts and Islam. I remember as a kid in the States we used to go Trick or Treating around the neighborhood and it was fun to get all that candy (and eat it until we felt sick)! Trick-or treating would probably not go down too well in Saudi-Arabia though..

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Hello there, I’m Laura, the author of Blue Abaya, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia established in 2010. I’ve been traveling around and exploring Saudi Arabia since 2008.
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  • ExploreOctober 27, 2011 - 5:48 am

    I think dressing up as another culture is okay, I don’t mind if people do it with mine. But if it’s with a very negative connotation like terrorism then that’s really not cool.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 27, 2011 - 4:20 pm

    wearing an Islamic dress, abaya, niqaab, to a party and drinking alcohol is just wrong!! How dare they make fun of Islam like this?? Theyre is many other costumes to wear than this.ReplyCancel

  • Proud MuslimahOctober 27, 2011 - 6:54 pm

    This has always been a bit of an issue with me since I am a Muslim from a Christian family. I participate in Christian holiday celebrations like Christmas but I do not participate in the prayer since the prayer ends with “in Jesus’ name…” which would make me praying to someone other than Allah. Otherwise, I pass out candy on Halloween, I celebrate Christmas with my family, I eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and I do it because it’s a wonderful time to spend with my family and friends. :) It’s always been a bit hard to grasp that my kids might not be able to go trick or treating someday. I dont know what I will do instead.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 27, 2011 - 10:17 pm

    Explore-thanks for commenting and welcome to my blog! What culture are you from? I saw that you currently live in Scotland :)

    anonymous-Some people might think abaya and niqab are Islamic garments ONLY but I see a strong cultural influence in them. Women didn’t wear such clothing during the times of the Prophet Mohammed. That’s why I think the people who wear that kind of clothing to Halloween parties are doing it more to make fun of the culture, not the religion, but I wouldn’t know for sure of course.ReplyCancel

  • SaudiExpatOctober 28, 2011 - 4:20 am

    I agree with you on the dress but Halloween and trick or treating does happen here in Saudi and the Saudi’s DO participate. They come onto the Aramco compounds in mass to trick or treat with their kids. It is a win win for everyone.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousOctober 28, 2011 - 7:23 am

    its really sad to hear muslims talking about participating in halloween..everyone is gna be calling me an extremist..but no i just practise my religion and don’t cut and paste what i like and don’t like..what is there to like from pagan rituals?? please explain..i am not trying to attack anyone on this blog..but if you do read about islam and some basic principles of imitating other religions it all counts…its simply not allowed to be done in Islam. Please don’t fool yourself by telling me that your taking part in family events..you can do family things on any other day of the year..no but u want to make it the same day that christians believe is the birth date of Esa..kinda hard to understand.

  • LaylahOctober 28, 2011 - 10:56 pm

    SaudiExpat-oh wow I didn’t realize Saudis go trick or treating :) but if its inside aramco walls they’re safe from muttawa.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 28, 2011 - 10:58 pm

    CocoMuslimah-thanks for sharing your views:) I dont think you were personally attacking anyone. Everyone is entitled to share their opinions here!ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 28, 2011 - 11:00 pm

    Proud Muslimh-I understand your dilemma. Balancing the christian holidays, islam and family happiness is not an easy task :)ReplyCancel

  • Om Lujain©October 29, 2011 - 7:12 am

    I used to LOVE Halloween as a child… but now I have the dilemma that I need my daughter to know about Eid as well.. She has been so focused on Halloween, Eid has been completely overshadowed… but I will try my best to make it much more fun… maybe even start having costume parties for Eid.. (every year… now she would love that one!!)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahOctober 29, 2011 - 8:56 pm

    That’s a great idea!Make it a tradition in your family and make it a special occasion for cooking some special foods, I bet she will start looking forward to it more :)ReplyCancel

  • Ahmed Karam.October 31, 2011 - 9:09 am

    So you live in Riyadh? gosh that’s like a million times worse than in Jeddah. Over here in jeddah my aunt went to the mall with no abaya and her head wasn’t even covered she wore a white traditional Moroccan outfit and that’s it. The mutawas here are a lot loser than in Riyadh, I rarely see Mutawas over here, colored abayas with bling are everywhere and women wearing Niqab is rare too, it’s weird how there can be so much differencesReplyCancel

  • MarionApril 15, 2014 - 6:17 pm

    “Inside Aramco walls”? More examples of western compounds being abused and exploited by Saudis who think that the western community is a place, like Chuck E Cheese’s, where they can go for certain “activities”. The western community is not a public place, and is provided exclusively for westerners for one reason only: because westerners are not comfortable having to follow Islamic rules at home or in private (even though they have no problem with it in public.) They do not have a concept of “haram” and Halloween is not haram on the compound. Therefore, anyone who considers it to be “haram” should not be there. There is nothing worse or more hypocritical than seeing a Saudi or other Islamic national on a western compound where Islam is not followed, disrespecting the western community there by continuing to follow Islam in some way such as wearing a headscarf, while attending a western function or participating in some haram activity. That is also a great disrespect to Islam if not a downright disgrace. Western people do not have any problem at all following Islam out in society, not expecting any Halloween, Valentines, or even to be able to buy a birthday cake, observing prayer and wearing headscarves. Western communities are there out of respect for Saudi rules and culture/Islam and not wanting to change it, but to compartmentalize a place where those rules don’t apply. Western communities are not social places to host followers of Islam for haram weekend parties, Halloween, or anything else. People who want to do that should do so quietly in their own home.ReplyCancel

  • DeeMarch 12, 2015 - 12:35 am

    Marion, I find your post a little bit offensive. I’m Muslim and I’m an expat and lived my whole life in the West. I also live in a compound. Am I offending you by wearing a hijab in the compound?? Really? Do we have places in the west that are for Muslims only where it is seen as a disgrace for westerners to show their faces and come around not covered up or join us for an Eid party? No we do not, because it is a ridiculous concept. Not all Muslims have the same opinions on things like Halloween, or birthdays and we’re not all as ultra conservative as Saudi Arabia or agree with their ways.
    Who are you to tell us what we can and can’t follow? Just like not every westerner is a conservative Christian or Mormon, the same applies to Muslims. As long as Muslims going in there aren’t trying to tell you what you can and can’t do within your own compound why should it bother you? It only shows that you wish not to integrate or deal with Muslims at all outside of your compound walls.ReplyCancel

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