Public Holidays and Festivals in Saudi Arabia

Dive into the vibrant world of Saudi Arabian holidays and festivals, a land where tradition and modernity blend seamlessly to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and religious significance of this Kingdom. Saudi Arabia, known for its deep-rooted history, splendid architecture, and the warm hospitality of its people, offers a unique glimpse into the Islamic calendar and national pride through its various holidays and festivals. These occasions are not just a time for celebration but also an opportunity for visitors and residents alike to immerse themselves in the customs and traditions that have been passed down through generations. From religious observances that mark significant events in the Islamic faith to national celebrations of unity and pride, each festival and holiday in Saudi Arabia carries its own unique flavor and significance. This article aims to provide an in-depth look at some of the most important holidays and festivals in Saudi Arabia, offering insights into how they are celebrated and their importance in the social and cultural fabric of the country.

Founding Day

Founding Day is a relatively new addition to Saudi Arabia's list of public holidays, commemorating the establishment of the Saudi state by Imam Muhammad bin Saud in 1727. This day is a symbol of national pride and unity, reflecting on the historical journey and achievements of the Kingdom. Celebrations include a variety of cultural and recreational events, such as folk dances, exhibitions, and public performances that showcase the country's heritage and advancements. Schools and public institutions often organize special programs and activities to educate the younger generation about their nation's history and values. Founding Day is an opportunity for Saudis to reflect on their past, celebrate the present, and look forward to the future with hope and ambition.

Eid al-Fitr

Eid al-Fitr, known as the "Festival of Breaking the Fast," marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. This celebration is one of the most joyous occasions in the Islamic calendar, characterized by communal prayers, feasting, and giving charity to the less fortunate. Families and friends gather to share meals and exchange gifts, while children often receive new clothes and monetary gifts called "Eidiya." The streets and homes are decorated with lights and ornaments, creating a festive atmosphere throughout the country. Eid al-Fitr not only symbolizes the completion of a month of spiritual reflection and fasting but also fosters a sense of community and brotherhood among Muslims in Saudi Arabia and around the world.

Arafat Day

Arafat Day is observed on the 9th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and marks the second day of the Hajj pilgrimage and the day before Eid al-Adha. It is considered one of the most sacred days in Islam, as it commemorates the final sermon of Prophet Muhammad at the Mount of Arafat, near Mecca. Muslims who are not participating in the Hajj pilgrimage observe Arafat Day by fasting and engaging in prayer and reflection. This day emphasizes the themes of forgiveness, mercy, and unity within the Muslim community. It serves as a reminder of the devotion and submission to Allah that is central to the Islamic faith.

Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha, also known as the "Festival of Sacrifice," is celebrated with great reverence in Saudi Arabia. This holiday honors the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to Allah, before Allah provided a ram to sacrifice instead. Eid al-Adha begins on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah and lasts for three days. It coincides with the final rites of the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. The celebration is marked by the slaughtering of sheep, goats, cows, or camels, with a portion of the meat distributed to the poor and needy. This act of giving helps ensure that everyone can partake in the celebratory meals, reinforcing the principles of charity, community, and compassion.

National Day

National Day in Saudi Arabia is celebrated on the 23rd of September and marks the unification of the Kingdom by King Abdulaziz in 1932. This day is a public holiday filled with national pride and cultural events that highlight the country's heritage, achievements, and aspirations. Festivities include fireworks, parades, folk music, and dance performances, as well as various public and private events across the Kingdom. National Day is an opportunity for Saudis to express their national identity and pride in their country's progress. It's a time for reflection on the past, celebration of the present, and optimism for the future, as the country continues to evolve and grow on the international stage.

Janadriyah National Festival

The Janadriyah National Festival is the pinnacle of cultural celebrations in Saudi Arabia, showcasing the Kingdom's commitment to preserving its heritage and traditions. This annual event, held near Riyadh, lasts for two weeks and draws visitors from across the globe. Attendees can explore a vast array of activities, including traditional camel races, folk dances, and arts and crafts exhibitions. The festival serves as a living museum, displaying the diverse cultural practices of the Saudi regions, from cuisine to clothing and poetry. Janadriyah National Festival not only celebrates the past but also emphasizes the Kingdom's contemporary achievements in arts, literature, and science, making it a bridge between generations.

Riyadh Spring Festival

The Riyadh Spring Festival brightens the capital city with vibrant displays of flowers and greenery, signaling the arrival of spring. It is a celebration of nature's renewal, featuring extensive flower shows, garden competitions, and agricultural exhibitions. Families and tourists alike flock to parks and open spaces to enjoy outdoor concerts, cultural performances, and food festivals. The Riyadh Spring Festival is not just a feast for the senses but also an opportunity for community engagement and environmental awareness, highlighting the city's efforts in greening and beautification projects. This festival brings a burst of color and joy to the urban landscape, inviting all to revel in the beauty of spring.

Jeddah Festival

Jeddah Festival, also known as Jeddah Season, transforms the city into a hub of entertainment, culture, and tourism during the summer months. This festival offers a wide range of activities, from beach sports and water activities along the Red Sea coast to international concerts and theatrical performances. Art exhibitions, shopping fairs, and culinary events showcase both global trends and local traditions, attracting families and young people looking for fun and excitement. Jeddah Festival not only boosts tourism but also highlights the city's status as a cultural gateway to the Kingdom, blending modern attractions with historic landmarks.

Sharqiah Season Festival

The Sharqiah Season Festival, covering the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, is a relatively new but rapidly growing event that celebrates the region's cultural heritage and economic significance. From the bustling metropolis of Dammam to the historic streets of Al Khobar and the serene beaches of Jubail, the festival features a variety of activities, including sports events, art installations, and live entertainment. It aims to highlight the Eastern Province's contribution to the Kingdom's development and its rich maritime history. Sharqiah Season provides a platform for local talent and businesses, fostering a sense of pride and community among residents and visitors alike.

In essence, the holidays and festivals of Saudi Arabia are a colorful tapestry that weaves together the threads of history, faith, and national identity. They offer a window into the soul of the Kingdom, reflecting its values, traditions, and aspirations. Through the celebration of these special days, Saudis and expatriates alike come together in a spirit of unity and joy, reinforcing the bonds that make the community strong and resilient. For those looking to explore the rich cultural landscape of Saudi Arabia, these holidays provide a perfect opportunity to experience the warmth and hospitality of its people, and to gain a deeper understanding of the country's heritage and beliefs. Whether you're a resident or a visitor, participating in or observing these celebrations can be a profoundly enriching experience, offering insights into the heart and spirit of this fascinating country.

Upcoming Holidays (next six months)

HolidayDateDayType
Eid al-Adha Holiday June 18 Tuesday Public Holiday
National Day September 23 Monday Public Holiday

Holidays by Year

Previous Year: 2023
This page was last edited on 11 February 2024 at 09:10 AM (EST).