Saudi Arabia Holidays 2013
Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab country in the middle east; it follows Islamic law (Sharia) as the base of its government and uses it as an outline for running the country. Therefore, holidays in Saudi Arabia are forms of major Islamic festivals. Each year, two Islamic festivals are celebrated, Eid al-fitr and Eid al-Adha, as well as one national day. Unlike many cultures whose celebrations ensue on a certain day, Saudi Arabian holidays are determined through moon sightings. Below is an estimate of the day in which each holiday is celebrated and the rituals that take place.
Eid al-Fitr August 8-24; 2013
Originating from the Islamic prophet Muhammad, Eid al-Fitr (also known as Feast of Breaking the Fast, sugar feast, sweet festival, and lesser Eid) is celebrated on the first month of Shawwal, at the end of Ramadan. Ramadan is a time in which Muslims practice fasting as part of a religious ritual. Many traditions suggest that the festival is commemorating the migration of Muhammad from Mecca. Muslims all around the world celebrate the ending of their 20 to 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting by carrying out ancient rituals and providing a feast.
To begin the ceremony, Muslims awake before sunrise and offer Satlatul Fajr (a pre-sunrise prayer); after which, they brush their teeth, shower, put on perfume, and dress in their best attire. It is forbidden to fast on the Day of Eid, so usually Muslims will eat a small breakfast consisting of date fruit.
After the morning rituals have taken place, Muslims must perform an act of charity (such as giving money to the poor) before they can begin the ‘Eid prayer. This prayer is heard in congregation in an open area like a field, town center, or mosque. The prayer itself consists of six incantations and two units of prayer, which is then followed by a sermon and supplication asking God for forgiveness, peace, blessings, and mercy. Kindness, charity, and devotion to God are the main themes of this beloved and well practiced festival.
Eid al-Adha October 10-20 2013
Eid al-Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice, Major Festival, Greter Eid, Kurban Bayram, and Bakrid, is a very important and well celebrated Muslim holiday. It celebrates Abraham’s attempt at sacrificing of his first born son Ishmael to God; though God did intervene once Abraham had proved himself. He was instead offered a lamb to sacrifice instead of his son. The holiday began approximately 4,000 years ago and lasts about three days.
As the story goes, Abraham was told by God to bring Hajar (his wife) and Ishmael (his first born son and only child) to Arabia. Abraham left his wife and son, who quickly ran out of supplies and were dying of thirst and hunger. While Hajar was searching for water, she prayed to God for help and a spring appeared at her sons feet. Many years later, Abraham was instructed to return to Canaan where his wife and child were, and they were able to construct a temple (Kaaba). As the popularity of Kaaba grew, the city Mecca was born. When Ishmael was 13, God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son; neither he nor his son showed any hesitation when Abraham tried to cut Ishmael’s throat. God stepped in, happy with Abrahams willingness to serve, and protected Ishmael from harm.
The Eid prayers are offered in congregation and consist of two units and seven Takbirs in the first Raka’ah and five Takbirs in the second Raka’ah. After these are performed, it is followed with the Khutbah (sermon) by the Imam. Once the prayers and sermons have been completed, the participants embrace and greet each other. Along with religious practices in congregations, wealthier Muslims sacrifice a domesticated animal (cow, camel, goat, sheep, ram, etc.). The animal has to meet a certain standard for it to be considered an acceptable sacrifice. The meat is then divided into three parts, of which the family keeps a third. The second third is given to relatives, neighbors, and friends, while the last third is given up as charity to the poor.
Saudi Arabia National Day September 23, 2013
Saudi Arabia National Day is celebrated every year on September 23. It’s a celebration of the countries identity and unification by the late king Ibn Saud in 1932. Because of its significance, the day is held as a public holiday in Saudi Arabia and represents all of their customs and traditions; however, it was not officially recognized until 2005 when King Abdullah declared it a holiday.
Though not as celebrated as the before mentioned holidays, Saudi Arabia has a few other holidays as well. January 24, 2013 is the Prophet’s Birthday; March 20, 2013 is the March Equinox; June 21, 2013 is the June solstice; July 9, 2013 Ramadan begins; September 22, 2013 is the September equinox; November 5, 2013 is the Muharram (Muslim New Year); and finally, December 21,2013 is the December Solstice. Most of these are seasonal or observed holidays, but they are still important to Saudi Arabia culture.
16 million citizens, 9 million foreign expatriates, 2 million illegal immigrants, and a history dating back to 1932, has allowed Saudi Arabia to acquire a rich culture full of ritual and customs. The holidays, though few, give the people an opportunity to express their religious and patriotic views, as well as give back to those who are in need.