Kuwaiti festivals center on national holidays marking independence and liberation, as well as religious events on the Muslim calendar that are celebrated with feasts, family get-togethers, public gatherings and fireworks. National Day and Eid el-Fitr, which ends the fasting month of Ramadan are favorites.
New Year’s Day
As with the rest of the world, Kuwaitis celebrate the Gregorian New Year with midnight gatherings, fireworks and feasting, either at home or in restaurants. It’s a popular time for visitors, with hotels hosting special events, sumptuous meals and cultural displays of all kinds.
The national holiday celebrated on February 26 marks the liberation of Kuwait via Operation Desert Storm at the end of the First Gulf War. Patriotism is shown by rejoicing in public buildings, parties, street parades and dancing, and the joyous waving of the flag. It’s a time of remembrance for the thousands who lost their lives during the Iraqi invasion, and for those who were captured and imprisoned.
Celebrated in February on the day before Liberation Day, National Day marks the final emergence of Kuwait from Ottoman rule and its transformation into an independent country. National dress is worn and it’s a time for family, parties and feasting.
The Hala Festival in February is a celebration of springtime, with the parched desert land alive with lush greenery and vibrantly colored flowers. Migratory birds arrive by the million, and cultural events, street parades, and carnivals are held throughout the month. Shops and stores hold their annual sales, drawing visitors from Arab countries and beyond.
The most important religious festival in Kuwait is the holy month of Ramadan in August/September, celebrated as the time when the Prophet Muhammad revealed the Koran to his followers. From sunrise to sunset, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking and pray five times a day instead of the usual four. The month begins with the viewing of the new moon, and evenings during the festival are spent eating, talking and celebrating life with friends and family.
The most joyous of all Kuwait’s festivals is Eid el-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. The festivities last for several days, and include visits with friends and family, gift exchanges and feasts. Eid is a time of peace, forgiveness, merry-making, and massive celebrations.
This October religious festival remembers Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, and is commemorated with visits to mosques, family meals, new clothes and the giving of money and gifts to children. In rural areas, a sheep or goat may be sacrificed.
Islamic New Year
The Islamic New Year falls on the first day of the first month of Muharram in October, November or December, depending on the Islamic calendar. Kuwaitis watch the new moon in the early evening as days begin at sunset. Cards wishing health and wealth are exchanged along with gifts, and New Year resolutions are set. It’s a low-key event, centered on the family.