A guide on why Valentine's Day isn't celebrated in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
26 January 2018| Last updated on 2 April 2018
With thousands of couples gearing up for February 14th across the world - you’d be surprised to know that the romantic sentiment of Valentine's Day isn’t shared across the world.
Valentine’s Day has been either made illegal or banned in six countries across the world. Whether for cultural or religions reasons, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, India and Saudi Arabia have all made it illegal to celebrate this popular Western tradition. It is even banned in certain areas of Russia!
Violators of this law have to endure severe punishment in some of the countries if they are caught celebrating it.
Why is Valentine’s Day illegal in Saudi Arabia?
Valentine’s Day is a Western holiday that originated partly from Christianity. It is haram (forbidden) in the Kingdom, not because of cultural reasons, but rather religious ones.
Saudi Arabia has strict laws enforcing the separation of different genders. Men and women are not allowed to mix privately or publicly if they are not directly related to one another or married. Further to this, they are also not allowed to have any form of romantic relationships before marriage.
Valentine’s Day goes directly against their beliefs and encourages romantic relationships and the mixing of different genders. Valentine’s Day has been banned in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to avoid Saudi nationals becoming influenced by Western traditions and eventually led astray because of this holiday.
Do people celebrate Valentine’s Day in Saudi Arabia?
Well, yes, and no. Most of the locals do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. Not necessarily because it is banned for religious reasons, but rather that they believe that you should be affectionate towards your partner every day of the year and not make an exception on only one day.
More liberal Saudis embrace the spirit of Valentine’s Day and arrange something special although they are fewer in numbers.
Of course most, if not all, Westerners in Saudi Arabia do celebrate Valentine’s Day but it is risky.
Can you buy anything for Valentine’s Day in Saudi Arabia?
Roses and love themed items (which doesn’t say Valentine’s Day) are readily available before and after Valentine’s Day. On February 14th however, it is a whole other story.
Red roses and heart shaped items are completely banned and may not even be kept on display during Valentine’s Day.
In previous years the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), better known as the religious police, would prowl the street from shop to shop looking for anything related to Valentine’s Day. Items were confiscated and people who looked like they were celebrating or promoting the holiday were arrested and punished. Some shop owners have become so paranoid about this that they’d rather close their shop for the day to avoid the risk of the religious police finding something ‘illegal’ in their stores.
Residents in the country are also not allowed to wear red on the day. Wearing the colour red on Valentine’s Day has completely been banned.
Of course, the Kingdom has started easing on a number of their strict rules during the last couple of months with music festivals and cinemas returning to Saudi Arabia, women being allowed to drive and enter sports stadiums and tourist visa’s being made available, even to women travelling on their own. At the rate they’re going, it won’t come as a surprise if Valentine’s Day is soon made legal again in the Kingdom.