Valentines Day- Does Saudi Arabia take it too Far?

My interpretation of Valentine’s Day is a day to recognize and appreciate those who are loved and cherished.  Naturally the first thought that comes to mind given the symbols of hearts, cupid and kisses is of a partner (husband, wife, fiancé ,fiancée, boyfriend, girlfriend) but it applies to others who one wants to recognize as well. 


But according to the Guardian  Saudi Arabia has banned the sale of all red gift items, including red roses, leading up to Valentine’s Day, reports. Saudi religious police in the conservative Muslim nation say the reason for removing everything red from store shelves is because the celebration of Valentine’s Day promotes sin and encourages relationships out of wedlock.”


And according to Wikipedia:  Valentine’s Day is a holiday celebrated on February 14. It is the traditional day on which lovers express their love for each other; sending Valentine’s cards, or offering candy. It is very common to present flowers on Valentine’s Day. The holiday is named after two among the numerous Early Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

The day is most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of “valentines.” Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards.[1] The mid-nineteenth century Valentine’s Day trade was a harbinger of further commercialized holidays in the United States to follow.[2] The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.[3]


Valentine’s Day
Saint Valentine of Terni and his disciples. 14th Century France. Richard de Montbaston.
Also called St Valentine’s Day
Observed by Western and Western-influenced cultures
Type Cultural, multinational
Significance Lovers express their feelings to each other
Date February 14
Observances Sending greeting cards and gifts, dating.
Related to The Night of Sevens, a Chinese holiday that also relates to love. White Day, a similar holiday celebrated in Japan and Korea one month after Valentine’s Day


In the Islamic world

In Persian culture (Iran) Sepandarmazgan is a day for love, which is on 29 Bahman in the jalali solar calendar. The corresponding date in the Gregorian calendar is 17 February. Sepandarmazgan were held in the Great Persian Empire in the 20th century BC hundreds of years before its acknowledgement by western world.

This day is currently celebrated semi-secretly in Iran despite some restrictions made by government; young Persian boys and girls may be seen on this day going out and buying gifts and celebrating.

In Saudi Arabia in 2008, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items, telling shop workers to remove any red items, as the day is considered an un-Islamic holiday. This ban created a black market of roses and wrapping paper, according to a BBC News article.[26]


Okay, so overall Valentines Day is associated with love and affection but come on, insinuating that people cannot control themselves in Saudi Arabia and if given the chance to recognize Valentines Day will promote illicit relationships and sin out of wedlock?!


Speaking personally, I have fond memories of Valentines Day starting as a young child in school.  Not only would Valentine cards be exchanged but everyone would usually bring in sweets and other treats to share.  And once I married, my husband and I would take special efforts to recognize our love, appreciation and affection for each other on that day.  It’s not that we do not routinely appreciate each other but having a specific day to officially acknowledge the feelings is not a bad thing.  At least not in my view.

So I guess the issue I am grappling with here, is it going too far to specifically ban not only recognition of Valentines Day in Saudi Arabia but to also prevent any indication of the day such as red hearts or flowers from being viewed?  And secondly, what psychological impact does this banning impose?  As cited by BBC, the ban has created a viable and profitable black markets sale of roses and other items associated with Valentines Day in the Kingdom.  Does banning this day as such in fact draw more attention and thereby attraction to the day?  Does it encourage just what is strived to avoid, illicit relationships and sin so people can prove they can circumvent such restrictions?

In closing — Happy Valentines Day to each one of you reading this post!  


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