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..