For many Christian expatriates who live in the Kingdom on a Western-only compound they probably notice only few distinctions from celebrating Christmas in the Kingdom as compared to their own countries.
On most Western-only compounds the residents are allowed to decorate both the inside and outside of their homes with holidays lights and cheer. Usually the clubhouse will hold a vast Christmas tree and be brightly decorated as well.
Some residents of Western only compounds may gather together to enjoy eggnog and perhaps go caroling around the compound.
Many of these same Western only compounds will sell Christmas related items in their gift shops. The gifts are unique in that you can find Arab oriented Christmas ornaments such as camels or even Santa in a thobe! The stores may also have wrapping paper, artificial trees and some of the other items which make Christmas special for expatriates.
Even some of the stores in cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman will at times have some Christmas items on sale. I always enjoyed going to the shops at King Faisal Specialist hospital in Riyadh as during the Christmas season there would be special Christmas bizarre sales.
While there are these outward signs of Christmas in the Kingdom it in no way implies that there is a carte blanche for Christian expatriates to ‘flaunt’ the holiday spirit. Santa caps should not be worn in public or in working environments. Christmas parties not held at a compound or private residence should be discreet.
Unless you have a very special relationship with a Saudi who has experienced Christmas, it is not appropriate to give a Saudi a gift during the holiday season. However, it is okay to graciously accept a gift from a Saudi. Many Saudis enjoy giving their Christian friends a “Christmas cake” during the holiday season. The Christmas cake is simply a delicious cake from any local bakery but may be decorated in red or green.
Expatriate children in the Kingdom should not fret. Santa has always been known to make the rounds of the various compounds in order to hear the special wishes of the children.
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