The Muslim world literally revolves around Saudi Arabia because it is here, in Mecca, that every devout is required to make a pilgrimage at least once in their lives, a millions-strong-pilgrimage called Hajj. As expected, two out of only three Saudi Arabia public holidays are Islamic festivals, and the other one that completes the list is national.
Below is the calendar for Saudi Arabia public holidays 2013.
Djoulde Soumae – Thursday to Wednesday, 8 to 14 August 2013
Also known as Eid al-Fitr, the End of Ramadan (Ramadan is the holiest month in the Muslim calendar) marks the end of month-long fasting from dawn to dusk and is highly anticipated by the Muslim community. To celebrate this week-long (and often longer) event, Saudis celebrate an Eid mass and congregate on their fathers’ homes to share on Eid meal. Children receive gifts on this day, and the less fortunate Muslims also receive groceries and other staples anonymously on their doorsteps on the occasion of this Eid. A meal prepared in a communal rug is served so those who cannot afford a sumptuous banquet can also take part in the celebrations.
Al-Yaom Al-Watany – Monday, 23 September 2013
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) was once composed of disparate tribes, emirates and sheikhdoms until the House of Saud controlled most of the Arabian peninsula. KSA was acknowledged as one kingdom on this day in 1932. During the Saudi National Unification Day, the Saudi heritage and traditions are featured in programs, theaters and museums around the country, and the green and white of KSA flag embroidered with proclamations of their Islamic faith is hoisted on this day. “Ardah”, a male-only sword dance, is performed in exhibition halls on this day, while more and more young men celebrate this day flag-waving and partying in the streets.
Eid al-Adha – Thursday to Sunday, 10 to 20 October 2013
The Feast of Sacrifice is the other major Islamic holiday in KSA to commemorate the willingness of Abraham in sacrificing his son Ishmael to follow the command of Allah. Because of his obedience, he was instead commanded to sacrifice an animal in his son’s place. In KSA, Eid al-Adha coincides with the end of Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, and is an occasion celebrated with families especially those who have just returned from Hajj. The actual Feast of Sacrifice only lasts for three days, but the entire period of Eid al-Adha is to allow Hajj to those who are able-bodied enough to do it. On the first morning of the Festival of Sacrifice, the devout attend mass prayers to listen to sermons and readings of the Qur’an. Afterwards, Muslims visit relatives and friends, exchange gifts with them and share traditional meals. Animals (usually goat or sheep) are slaughtered and their meats are distributed to the poor.