Muslim holidays are observed nationally, and Christian holidays are elective for Christians only. Often a national holiday is declared when Pakistan's national cricket team wins a major international match.

There are many holidays and festivals celebrated annually in Pakistan. While Pakistan is an Islamic nation, there are also several secular holidays including Pakistan Day, Independence Day, Defence of Pakistan Day, Pakistan Air Force Day (7 September), the anniversaries of the birth and death of Quaid-e-Azam (Ali Jinnah), Allama Iqbal (Muhammad Iqbal) and the birth (30 July) and death (8 July) of Madar-e-Millat. [Source: Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. ]

Several important festivals are celebrated by Pakistani Muslims during the year, dependent on the Islamic calendar. Ramadan, the ninth month of the calendar, is characterised by daytime fasting for 29 or 30 days and is followed by the festival of Eid ul-Fitr. During a second festival, Eid ul-Adha, an animal is sacrificed in remembrance of the actions of Abraham and the meat is shared with friends, family, and the less fortunate. Both Eid festivals are public holidays. In which people to visit family and friends and children to receive new clothes, presents, and sweets. Some Muslims celebrate Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi, the birthday of the prophet Muhammad, in the third month of the calendar (Rabi' al-Awwal).

National Holidays
February 5 — Kashmir Day
March 23 — Pakistan Day ((signing of first constitution and proclamation of the republic)
May 1 — Labor Day
July 1st — Bank Holiday
August 14 — Independence Day commemorates the founding of Pakistan in 1947
September 6 — Defense Day commemorates the death of Ali Jinnah and the Indo-Pakistan war if 1965
September 11th — Anniversary of Death of Quaid-e-Azam.Quaid-e-Azam is an honorific tern for Mohammed Ali Jinnah. .
November 9 — Allama Muhammad Iqbal Day ( (Birthday of Muhammad Iqbal, poet proposed Muslim Pakistan in 1930)
December 25 — Christmas Day
December 25 — Quaid-e-Azam Birthday (Quaid-e-Azam is an honorific tern for Mohammed Ali Jinnah) and Christmas for Christians
December 31st — New Year’s Eve, Bank Holiday

Muslim Holiday (variable, set according to the Muslim lunar calendar)
— Muharram (Islamic New Year)
— Ashura (Important Shiite festival)
— Id al Adha (Eid-ul-Azha , Feast of the Sacrifice of Abraham)
— Ramadan (month of Muslim fasting)
— Id al-Fitr (feast marking the end of Ramadan)
— Mawlid an Nabi
— Eid-i-Milad-un-Nabi (Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad)

Pakistan Day on March 23rd marks the day in 1940 that Muslims in British India adopted the “Pakistan Resolution,” the resolution that led to the creation of Pakistan. Also referred to as Pakistan Resolution Day or Republic Day, it commemorates both the adoption of the Lahore Resolution by the All-India Muslim League during its March 22-24 1940 session, which called for the creation of independent Muslim states, and the adoption of the first constitution of Pakistan on March 23, 1956 during the transition to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan A military parade in Islamabad usually features displays of Pakistan's military hardware. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]

Holidays in Pakistan in 2021

January 1 — New Year's Day (Bank Holiday)
February 5 — Kashmir Day (Public Holiday)
February 16 — Basant Panchami (Optional Holiday) [Source:]

March 11 — Shivaratri (Optional Holiday)
March 12 — Shab e-Meraj (Tentative Date) (Optional Holiday)
March 20 — March Equinox (Season)
March 23 — Pakistan Day (Public Holiday)
March 28 — Holi (Optional Holiday)
March 29 — Dulhandi (Optional Holiday)
March 29 — Shab e-Barat (Tentative Date) (Optional Holiday)

April 2 — Good Friday (Optional Holiday)
April 4 — Easter (Optional Holiday)
April 5 — Easter (Optional Holiday)
April 14 — Ramazan Bank Holiday (Bank Holiday)
April 14 — Baisakhi (Optional Holiday)
April 21 — Ridván (Optional Holiday)

May 1 — Labour Day (Public Holiday)
May 14 — Eid-ul-Fitr (Tentative Date) (Public Holiday)
May 15 — Eid-ul-Fitr Holiday (Tentative Date) (Public Holiday)
May 16 — Eid-ul-Fitr Holiday (Tentative Date) (Public Holiday)
May 26 — Buddha Purnima (Optional Holiday)
June 21 — June Solstice (Season)
July 1 — Bank Holiday (Bank Holiday)
July 21 — Eid al-Adha (Tentative Date) (Public Holiday)
July 22 — Eid al-Adha Holiday (Tentative Date) (Public Holiday)
July 23 — Eid al-Adha Holiday (Tentative Date) (Public Holiday)

August 14 — Independence Day (Public Holiday)
August 16 — Nauroz (Optional Holiday)
August 18 — Ashura (Tentative Date) (Public Holiday)
August 19 — Ashura Holiday (Tentative Date) (Public Holiday)
August 21 — Birthday of Lord Zoroaster (Khordad Sal) (Optional Holiday)
August 22 — Raksha Bandhan (Hindu Holiday)
August 23 — Janmashtami (Optional Holiday)

September 6 — Defence Day (Observance)
September 10 — Ganesh Chaturthi (Hindu Holiday)
September 23 — September Equinox (Season)
September 28 — Chelum (Tentative Date) (Optional Holiday)
October 7 — First Day of Navaratri (Hindu Holiday)
October 13 — Durga Puja (Optional Holiday)
October 15 — Dussehra (Optional Holiday)
October 18 — Giarhwin Sharief (Tentative Date) (Optional Holiday)
October 19 — Eid Milad un-Nabi (Tentative Date) (Public Holiday)
October 20 — Birthday of Guru Balmik Sawami Ji (Optional Holiday)

November 4 — Diwali/Deepavali (Optional Holiday)
November 9 — Iqbal Day (Observance)
December 21 — December Solstice (Season)
December 24 — Christmas Eve (Observance)
December 25 — Christmas Day (Public Holiday)
December 25 — Quaid-e-Azam Day (Public Holiday)
December 26 — Day After Christmas (Christians only) (Optional Holiday)
December 31 — New Year's Eve (Observance)

Muslim Celebrations in Pakistan

The two major religious festivals celebrated by the Muslim Pakistanis are Id al-Fitr (also spelled Eid al-Fitr), which celebrates the end of Ramadan, and Bakr-Id, the feast of sacrifice.

According to the BBC: “There are only two Muslim festivals set down in Islamic law: Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha (Eid or Id is a word meaning festival). But there are also several other special days which Muslims celebrate. Some Muslims disapprove of celebrating the birthday of the Prophet, on the grounds that it is an innovation, and innovations in religious matters are forbidden. Some Muslims say that if changes were made in religious matters it would imply that Islam was not complete when it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, or that the Prophet did not tell Muslims everything that was revealed to him. This would be seen as highly sacrilegious by many Muslims. [Source: BBC, September 7, 2009]

According to the Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices: Sunni Muslims in Pakistan celebrate the principal Muslim religious festivals, such as Id-i-Ramadan, or Chhoti Id (Eid al-Fitr), when people fast from dawn until sunset; Bari Id, or Id Qurban, when those who are able slaughter an animal and distribute the meat to the poor; and Id-i-Mawlud, when people attend special gatherings at mosques to hear stories of the Prophet's life and take part in street processions singing praises of Muhammad. The religious festival of Shab-i-Barat (on the fourteenth day of the eighth month of the Muslim calendar) is held to remember deceased family members; food is given to the poor, and children celebrate with fireworks. The birthday of Ali Jinnah coincides with Christmas, and on this day Sunni Muslims and Pakistani Christians hold celebrations. Both Muslims and Christians wear new, brightly colored clothes and visit friends and relatives. [Source:Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices, Thomson Gale, 2006]

The Pashtuns (Pathans) are an ethnic group that live in western and southern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan and whose homeland is in the valleys of Hindu Kush. According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: “As all Pashtun are Muslims, they celebrate the two major festivals of the Islamic lunar calendar year. The first of these is Eid al-Fitr, which is celebrated for three days after the month of Ramadan (the fasting month) — i.e., the first three days of Shawwal, the 10th month of Islamic calendar. They also celebrate Eid al-Aa, which is on the 10th of Dhu-l-ijja (the 12th month of the Islamic calendar). In addition, they observe the 10th of Muarram, which is the first month of the Islamic calendar, in commemoration of the martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet. Pashtuns also celebrate the traditional Persian new year, Novruz, a holiday that continues to be observed throughout most of the Persian/Turkic world every March. [Source: revised by M. Kerr, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

Food for Religious Holidays and Celebrations in Pakistan

The two main religious festivals celebrated by Muslim in Pakistan are Id al-Fitr (also spelled Eid al-Fitr), which celebrates the end of Ramadan (See Below), and Bakr-Id (Eid-ul-Azha), the feast of sacrifice. Held in the last month of the Muslim calendar, Bakr-Id is a time of giving and sacrifice. A bakri (goat), sheep, camel, or any other four-legged animal is slaughtered as a sacrificial offering, and the meat is given out to the poor and needy. Muslims who can afford two meals a day are expected to sacrifice an animal. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World, The Gale Group, Inc., 2002]

Eid-ul-Azha commemorates the occasion when the prophet Abraham was about to sacrifice his son in response to an order from God. Muslims sacrifice and animal to symbolize Abraham's submission to God. The meat of the sacrificed animal is divided into three equal parts, with the first donated to the poor, the second given to relatives and/or friends, and the third cooked at the home of the person who made the sacrifice. Eating the meat is part of the festival celebration activity. [Source: “Countries and Their Cultures”, Gale Group Inc., 2001]

According to “Countries and Their Cultures”: “The important religious festival Shab-I-Barat involves a special type of pudding known as halwa and unleavened bread known as nan being distributed among the poor. The halwa and nan dishes are specially decorated with silver or gold leaves and also are sent to relatives and neighbors.

“Sweets are distributed as part of the celebration of the birth of a new baby in a family, and an animal sacrificial offering is also made — one goat for a girl and two for a boy, with the animal meat distributed among the poor or among friends and relatives. Food also is involved in a ceremony celebrating a child becoming six or seven months old. Sisters and relatives place rice pudding in the infant's mouth using a silver spoon, and a drop of chicken broth is also put in the mouth. After this ceremony the adults then hold an elaborate dinner concluded with a special dessert called kheer.”

Eid-ul-Azhar (Feast of the Sacrifice)

Eid-ul-Azhar (Feast of Sacrifice, also known as Bakr-Id, Eid ul Adha) is celebrated on the tenth day of the last month of the Muslim year (10 Dhul-Hijja) and is a four-day public holiday in Muslim countries. Over 4000 years ago on this day, Muslims believe, the prophet Abraham had a vision in which God told him to sacrifice his son Ismael. Abraham took his son to a hill in Palestine (the site of the present-day Temple of the Rock in Jerusalem) as God told him to do, and just as Abraham was about to sink the knife into his son's chest, God appeared and told Abraham that he was only testing his faith, and for Abraham to sacrifice a sheep instead.

Muslims who can afford it are required to sacrifice a bakri (goat), sheep, camel, cow or any other four-legged animal. The meat is given out to the poor and needy. Muslims who can afford two meals a day are expected to sacrifice an animal symbolizing Abraham's submission to God. The meat of the animal is divided into three parts. The first part is given to the poor, along with money, sweets. clothes and other foods, the second to relatives and friends, and the third is cooked at home of the person who sacrificed the animal. Eating the meat is part of the festival celebration activity. [Sources: Countries and Their Cultures, Gale Group Inc., 2001; Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World, The Gale Group, Inc., 2002]

Eid ul Adha remembers the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to. On this day about 4000 years ago the prophet Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Ismail in response to a vision from God. Just as he was about to sink the knife into his son's chest God appeared and told him to sacrifice a sheep instead. According to the BBC: “God appeared in a dream to Ibrahim and told him to sacrifice his son Isma'il. Ibrahim and Isma'il set off to Mina for the sacrifice. As they went, the devil attempted to persuade Ibrahim to disobey God and not to sacrifice his beloved son. But Ibrahim stayed true to God, and drove the devil away.As Ibrahim prepared to kill his son God stopped him and gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead. [Source: BBC, September 7, 2009 |::|]

“Ibrahim's complete obedience to the will of God is celebrated by Muslims each year. Each Muslim, as they celebrate, reminds themselves of their own submission to God, and their own willingness to sacrifice anything to God's wishes. During the festival Muslims who can afford to, sacrifice domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of Ibraham's sacrifice. (British law insists that the animals must be killed in a proper slaughterhouse.) The meat is distributed among family, friends and the poor, who each get a third share. As with all festivals there are prayers, and also presents. |::|

The festival typically lasts for three days. One the first day the animal is sacrificed, usually by slitting its throat, after special prayers are said. Men usually do the killing and butchering and women hose blood and guts. Sometimes children blow up the lungs like balloons. A variety of functions take place on these three days, usually in accordance with local customs and traditions. At some places, the occasion is celebrated in the form of reunions. At others, people go to the shrines of holy men for prayers and alms giving. People dress in nice clothes and greet each other: “Eid Mubarak” (“An Auspicious id to you”). .


Hajj is held before the Feast of the Sacrifice when Muslims from all over the world congregate in Mecca for this pilgrimage to the House of God. All Muslims who are physically and financially able to perform the Hajj must do it, or at least a modified mini-Hajj. The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. The other four are giving to the poor, fasting during Ramadan, bowing to Mecca five times a day and accepting the prophet Muhammad into your heart. During the 11 day Haj Muslims are forbidden to hunt, argue, cut their hair or nails or engage in sexual relations. Before the enter Mecca they must don special toga-like and once inside Mecca, they must perform the following tasks.

1) At the Sacred Mosque they must circle the Kabba (the house of God) seven times, and make seven trips between the hills of Safa and Marwah (both enclosed in a Gallery of the Great Mosque). The latter symbolizes the search for water by Hagar, the slave girl who fathered Abraham's oldest son Ishmael. The Kabba is where Muslims directs their prayers. Near it is where Muhammad was born in A.D. 570 and today it is empty since Muhammad exorcised it of all demon in A.D. 630. On a corner of the shrine is a stone believed to be the only existing piece of Abraham's original temple.

2) On the eighth day of the twelfth month of the Muslim Lunar calendar, pilgrims move to Mina for the essential final days of the Hajj. 3) The next morning they travel to Arar for the pilgrimage's central ritual: the "standing." From noon until sunset in the scorching sun Muslims recite prayers from the Quran near the site of Muhammad's farewell sermon. By performing the act Muslims believe hope all of their sins will be forgiven. At sundown the go to Muzdalifah for the night. 4) They the return to Mina for three days. During on ritual pilgrims throw stones at stone three pillars representing the devil. During an other ceremony animals are sacrificed. Completing the Haj is something called the post-Arafat tawaf. 5) Before leaving Mecca, pilgrims again circle the Kaaba. .


Ramadan is the Muslim month-long fast. It is observed during the ninth month of the Muslim year. According to Islamic custom, every able bodied person — excluding young children, pregnant women and the elderly — are required to not eat of drink anything, even water, not smoke or have sex during the daylight hours of the fast. Food can be eaten before the first signs of dawn and after sunset. Often big meals with special foods and breads are prepared in the evening and sometimes social gatherings go on all night.

No food or drink is sold during the day except in the dining rooms at selected hotels. Out of courtesy to Pakistani Muslims non-Muslims should not eat, drink or smoke in front of them. Travel is difficult. Several days before the end of Ramadan, Muslims begin preparations for a festival that marks the end of the fast and thank the Almighty for his blessing during the year. At no time of the year is the spirit of the people as jubilant as during this time. Crowds flock to bazaars as they rush to purchase new clothes, jewelry, fruits, meat and sweets..

Ramadan is also a time when Muslims thank Allah for his blessings during the past year. An additional requirement during Ramadan is that all Muslims must help the less fortunate with both cash and food gifts. No food or drinks, including water, may be consumed. Most restaurants and food shops are closed during daylight hours. Breakfast must be finished before the sun rises, and the evening meal is eaten after the sun goes down. Children under the age of 12 are encouraged, but generally not expected, to fast. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World, The Gale Group, Inc., 2002; Countries and Their Cultures, Gale Group Inc., 2001]]

According to the Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World: “During Ramadan, Muslims rise before dawn to eat a meal called suhur (pronounced soo-HER). Foods containing grains and seeds, along with dates and bananas, are commonly eaten because they are considered slow to digest. This helps to ease hunger during the fast. At sunset, the day's fast is broken with iftar, a meal that traditionally starts with eating a date. After that, water, fruit juice, or lassi, and snacks such as samosas (meat or vegetable-filled pastries) are eaten, followed by dinner. Dinner may include tandoori chicken or lamb. If a family can afford it, dinner is shared with those less fortunate. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World, The Gale Group, Inc., 2002]


Eid-ul-Fitr (Feast of the Breaking of the Fast) is celebrated at the end of Ramadan and last for two days. A sane person in Mecca must spot the moon on the 29th day of the Muslim month or else the celebrations are postponed for a day. During the morning of the feast Muslim households are astir with excitement before sunrise. People put on their best clothing and eat a special breakfast which includes a sweet dish made from ultra thin vermicelli cooked in milk with dried dates, raisins, almonds and nuts.

After ablutions are performed and a special perfume is applied Muslims attend prayers at a mosque or a special park. An important duty of all wealthy Muslims on this feast is give money to the poor. The money is given before prayers to enable the poor to also enjoy the festival. Customary holiday greeting are exchanged and children receive gifts from their elders, mostly cash, which they spend at the zoo, circus or amusement park. On the last day of Ramadan over a hundred thousand Muslims fill the courtyard of Lahore's Badshahi Mosque and the open spaces around it. Shops are closed during Eid-ul-Fitr

Eid starts with an elaborate breakfast; then Muslims go to a mosque or special park for prayer. The special breakfast of sheer kharma, the sweet dish made with vermicelli cooked in milk with dried dates, raisins, almonds, and other nuts. Family and friends visit and eat festive meals throughout the day. Families use their best dishes, and bowls of fruit are set out on the table. Meats such as beef, lamb, and fish (in coastal areas) are eaten along with rice, chapatis, and desserts. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World, The Gale Group, Inc., 2002; Countries and Their Cultures, Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Muhammad's Birthday and Ascension to Heaven

Eid-Miladun-Nabi (Eid-I-Milad-un-Nabi, Prophet Muhammad's Birthday) is celebrated on the 12th day of the third month of the Muslim Calendar. Public gatherings take place in large towns and cities, and processions of Muslim devotees pass through the streets chanting verses in praise of the holy Prophet. On this day and throughout the month there are special gatherings in mosques and Muslim homes where the story of the birth and the mission of the Prophet is recited at functions. Houses and mosques are decorated with colorful strings of paper pennants and printed verses in praise of the Prophet. [Source: Countries and Their Cultures, Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Shab-I-Barat, a nighttime religious festival observed on the 14th day of the eighth month of the Muslim year, is the Muslim version of "All Souls' Day" when the dead are remembered. On this day it is believed that the lives and fortunes of mankind are registered in heaven for the coming year. Mosques are illuminated and a special type of pudding, known as “hawla”, and unleavened bread are distributed among the poor and sent to the neighborhood mosques. Children indulge in fireworks and hawla dishes are decorated with silver and gold leaves and sent to relatives and neighbors. Later family members gather together and read the Quran and recite prayers into the night. On this occasion some people visit cemeteries and place flowers and lights on the graves of the dead.. [Source: Countries and Their Cultures, Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Shab-I-Barat celebrates the night journey and ascent of the Prophet Muhammad, and the revelation of Salat. According to the BBC: “The festival is celebrated by telling the story of how the Prophet Muhammad was visited by two archangels while he was asleep, who purified his heart and filled him with knowledge and faith. The Prophet travelled from Mecca to Jerusalem in a single night on a strange winged creature called Buraq. From Jerusalem he ascended into heaven, where he met the earlier prophets, and eventually God .During his time in heaven Muhammad was told of the duty of Muslims to recite Salat (ritual prayer) five times a day. [Source: BBC, September 7, 2009 |::|]

Ashura and Muharram

Shia (Shiite) Muslims mark the Day of Ashurah on the 9th and 10th days of the first month (Muharram) to commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn bin Ali, (the grandson of prophet Muhammad). On the tenth day of Muharram (Asshura) participants take part in a procession in which symbols of Husayn are exhibited and worshipers beat themselves with their fists, cut themselves with knives and flagellate themselves on their backs and chests until they dripping with blood. During this festival Shiites fly black flags and imams tell the story of the brutal death Imam Husayn at the battle of Karbala to weeping worshipers. ["World Religions" edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, New York]

Ashura is the most important Shia holiday. It is generally not observed by Sunnis. Husayn (Husain) was killed along slaughtered with thousands of others at the battle of Karbala in A.D. 680. The first nine days of Muharram solemnly recount the tragedy. On the tenth morning, the day on which Hussein was murdered, people form barefoot processions in the streets and carry black and green banners and models of the martyr's mausoleum in Karabala, Iraq. [Source: Countries and Their Cultures, Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Husayn, his family and a band of followers were arrested by the tyrant Yazid and held without food or water. Even though his followers were put to death one by one Husayn resolved to die rather than acknowledge the tyrant as the leader of Islam. Followers beat themselves with blades attached to chains. The celebration is held in Shiite areas such as Skardu, Peshawar and Quetta.

Sufi Festivals in Pakistan

Sufi festivals known as “urs” are held annually to mark the anniversaries of a saints’ deaths and their “marriage” to God. They attract thousands of pilgrims from both sexes and have accompanying meals. Pilgrims arrive in specials buses, trains and trucks. There is a singing and dancing. Food and entertainment is offered at the accompanying fairs (“mela”). The fairs are open to anyone, regardless of their beliefs, and many of those in attendance normally don't set foot in a mosque.

Description in the Insight Guide to Pakistan of a Sufi festival in the Sind: “There is constant music, singing and dancing, keeping pace with the booming of the big copper drums. One party follows another and the ritual continues from morning to the evening. The drums thunder, men and women celebrate the occasion by ritual dancing and achieve grace with quick steps, forward and backward, hands flailing above the shoulders. The singing girls of whom Qalander is patron saint gyrate furiously, tossing their heads and swinging their long hair, drenched in sweat, wanting frenzy to reach the state of “la hoot la makan”, no self space, perfection union and peace with the divine."

On Sufi festival celebrating the Sufi saint, Qalandar, Nicholas Schmidle wrote in Smithsonian Magazine: “In the desert swelter of southern Pakistan, the scent of rose―water mixed with a waft of hashish smoke. Drummers pounded away as celebrants swathed in red pushed a camel bedecked with garlands, tinsel and multihued scarfs through the heaving crowd. A man skirted past, grinning and dancing, his face glistening like the golden dome of a shrine nearby. "Mast Qalandar!" he cried. "The ecstasy of Qalandar!" [Source: Nicholas Schmidle, Smithsonian Magazine, December 2008 |+|]

“The camel reached a courtyard packed with hundreds of men jumping in place with their hands in the air, chanting "Qalandar!" for the saint buried inside the shrine. The men threw rose petals at a dozen women who danced in what seemed like a mosh pit near the shrine's entrance. Enraptured, one woman placed her hands on her knees and threw her head back and forth; another bounced and jiggled as if she were astride a trotting horse. The drumming and dancing never stopped, not even for the call to prayer.

“Every year, a few hundred thousand Sufis converge in Seh- wan, a town in Pakistan's southeastern Sindh province, for a three'day festival marking the death of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, in 1274. Qalandar, as he is almost universally called, belonged to a cast of mystics who consolidated Islam's hold on this region; today, Pakistan's two most populous provinces, Sindh and Punjab, comprise a dense archipelago of shrines devoted to these men. Sufis travel from one shrine to another for festivals known as urs, an Arabic word for "marriage," symbolizing the union between Sufis and the divine. |+|

Sindhi Sufi Festivals

Sindhis are the natives of the Sindh province, which includes Karachi, the lower part of the Indus River, the southeast coast of Pakistan and a lot of desert. Most Sindhis are Sunni Muslims. There used to a large number of Hindus in the Sindh but they migrated to Indian after partition in 1947. “The worship of Muslim saints (pirs) is one aspect of Sindhi religion that deviates from orthodox Islam. Historically, the region has been extremely receptive to the Sufi movement, and one of the most revered saints of Sindh today is Lal Shabhaz Qalander, a 13th-century Sufi. Saint worship and its attendant rituals reflect Hindu influences in Sindh, and indeed in the past — especially at the level of folk religion — there was a great deal of mixing of Muslim and Hindu religious practices. It is not unusual for Muslims and Hindus to venerate the same saint. The patron saint of the Indus River, for example, is revered by Muslims as Khwajah Khidr, or Sheikh Tahir, and by Hindus, as Darya Shah, or Uderolal. *\

“As orthodox Sunnis, Sindhis celebrate all the major Muslim festivals (e.g., Muharram, Ramadan, Id ul-Fitr, Id ul-Adha). However, festivals of particular importance in Sindh are the death-anniversaries (Urs) of three local saints. Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, who is said to have died in A.D. 1345, is buried in the village of Sehwan, near Lake Manochar in central Sindh. People from all over the country attend his Urs, which is an occasion for the gathering of musicians, qawwali -singers, and dancers. The mela held to observe this Urs is, in effect, a festival of Sindhi culture, folk music, and dance. The Urs of Shah Abdul Latif, a mystic poet born in ad 1689, and Sachal Sarmast, an 18th-century poet, are also major festivals celebrated by Sindhis. *\

Sufi festivals known as “urs” are held annually to mark the anniversaries of a saints’ deaths and their “marriage” to God. They attract thousands of pilgrims from both sexes and have accompanying meals. Pilgrims arrive in specials buses, trains and trucks. There is a singing and dancing. Food and entertainment is offered at the accompanying fairs (“mela”). The fairs are open to anyone, regardless of their beliefs, and many of those in attendance normally don't set foot in a mosque.

Brahui Pir Festivals

The Brahui are a Dravidian language group of tribes that live mostly in Balochistan and the Sindh. Nearly all Brahui are Sunni Muslims According to the “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: Reverence for saints (pirs) is also deeply entrenched in Brahui culture. Every family has its particular saint, and women often keep in their houses some earth (khwarda) from the saint's shrine to be used in time of need. The Brahui believe in sorcery and possession by jinn or evil spirits. A mullah or sayyed (holy man) is often called in to read from the Qu'ran or provide charms and amulets to exorcise these spirits. Should this fail, a sheikh, who is known for his power over jinn may cast them out by dancing. [Source:“Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures,” The Gale Group, 1999 /=]

D. O. Lodrick wrote in the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: “A little earth [khwarda] may be fed to a sick person along with prayers to the saint for a cure. Sacrifices of sheep or goats are performed at the shrines as an offering to the pir or in fulfillment of a vow. Many take their children to a shrine for the first shaving of the head or, failing that, place a little bag of the hair in the shrine, where it is hung from a pole. [Source: D. O. Lodrick, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

“The Brahui observe the usual holy days of the Muslim calendar. On the eve of most high festivals, respect is paid to the souls of the dead. The holiest of all is the eve of the tenth day of Muharram, which is known as Imamak. Women prepare special dishes of meat and rice during the day. The family gathers near sunset in the presence of a mullah (Muslim priest), who reads from the Quran and recites prayers for the dead over the food. Dishes of food are then sent to relatives and neighbors, who reciprocate with their own offerings. The following morning is an occasion for the head of the house to visit the graveyard to pray at the graves of his dead relatives. *\

Celebrations of Religious Minorities

Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Christians in Pakistan also celebrate their own festivals and holidays such as Christmas, New Years, Buddha’s Birthday, Hindu Festival of Lights and Festival of Color. Sikhs come from across the world to visit several holy sites in Punjab, including the shrine of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, at Hassan Abdal in the Attock District, and his birthplace, at Nankana Sahib.

Christmas and Easter are observed by Pakistani Christians. Christmas coincides with holiday on the birthday of the Ali Jinnah, Pakistan's founder, so both Muslims and Christians can celebrate on this day.

The main festival of the Buddhist community is Baisakhi Purnima, the day of the Buddha’s birth which coincides with day on which it said he attained enlightenment.Parsis celebrate their New Year (Naoroz) on March 21, around the date of the first day of spring. Most Parsis live in Karachi.

Pakistani Hindus celebrated the same holidays as their brethren in India and Nepal. Their two most special festivals are Diwali (Festival of Lights) and Holi (Festival of Colors).The Festival of Lights is held with relatively big fanfare in Lahore at the Shalimar Gardens. The gardens are filled with multicolored lights and folk music and dances are performed.

Valentine's Day Celebrations Pakistan

Javeed Akhter, a Chicago-based physician, describes Lahore on the evening of Valentine's Day, 2006: “The night was alive. Street vendors were selling heart-shaped balloons and roses in singles and dozens. Many of the shops were having Valentine's Day sales. Restaurants were announcing Valentine's Day parties. The Gymkhana Club, where my family was staying, had a Valentine's Day dinner where "enthusiastic couples" could win "fabulous prizes." The extent and level of the Valentine's Day celebration I witnessed that evening knocked my socks off! The celebrations were so huge they were like the Islamic holiday Eid. [Source: Daniel Pipes website]

An observer in 2007 wrote: Gearing up for Valentine's Day in a month, someone at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad came up with the bright idea of replacing it with "Sister's Day," celebrated by handing out headscarves, shawls, and gowns to the female students. The goal, intoned UAF vice chancellor Zafar Iqbal, is to promote "eastern culture and Islamic traditions among the youth," noting that, "In our culture, women are more empowered and earn their due respect as sisters, mothers, daughters, and wives." [Source: February 18, 2007]

Islami Jamiat-e-Taleba, Pakistan largest Islamist student group, it has rebranded Valentine's Day "Modesty Day," though with modest success. [January 14, 2019] Following orders from Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the district administration of Islamabad, banned all celebrations for Valentine's Day. "Strict action" will be taken against those violating the order. [February 11, 2016]

Valentine’s Day Banned in Pakistan

In 2017, Valentine’s Day was banned by a Pakistani court on the basis that symbolized Western vulgarity and promoted promiscuity. The holiday was outlawed after a member of the public — Abdul Waheed — started a petition claiming it was a Western cultural import that is “against the teachings of Islam”. Waheed claimed Valentine’s Day was spreading “immorality, nudity and indecency”. Pakistan’s president Mamnoon Hussian weighed in on the issue and said “Valentine’s Day has no connection with our culture and it should be avoided.” A member of the public Taufeeq Leghari told Reuters news: “We're Muslims. Our religion forbids things like Valentine's Day.” Tom Gillespie, Express,com, February 8, 2018 \^/]

Pamela Constable wrote in the Washington Post, “A judge in the federal capital barred all sales, displays, celebrations and media promotion of Valentine’s Day, responding to a petition claiming that the holiday fosters “immorality and indecency” and violates Islamic values and culture....Many people in Islamabad expressed conflicted feelings or took half-measures to evade but respect the ban. A sidewalk cafe owner covered every table with red petals and hung a mobile of paper hearts. A flower vendor said he agreed with “the mullahs” that Valentine’s Day was forbidden in Islam, but he just happened to set out all red roses and snapdragons. Elsewhere in Pakistan, though, people expressed opposition to the holiday, and a street protest was staged in Karachi. [Source: Pamela Constable, Washington Post, February 14, 2017]

“The dispute over Valentine’s Day might seem silly to outsiders, and some secular leaders scoffed at the court ruling. One of Pakistan’s leading human rights activists, Asma Jahangir, commented that the judge who banned the romantic holiday “should be the prayer leader in a mosque.” But as many Pakistani commentators have said, their society urgently needs to find a middle ground between punitive and permissive versions of Islam, between abusive and licentious notions of romantic relations, between self-defeating hostility toward the Western world and slavish emulation of it. Finding an acceptable way to observe the international day of love might not be a bad place to start, they say.

In his argument against Valentine's Day President Mamnoon Hussain said: "Valentine's Day is part of the Western culture. There is no room for it to be celebrated in Islam and Pakistani culture." Mamnoon Hussain, who holds the ceremonial post of the president and is not seen as outspoken on various issues, noted that the Valentine's Day is "not a part of Muslim tradition" and that "we must maintain our religious and national identity." ...

In 2018 Pakistan has banned Valentine’s Day for the second year in a row because the "un-Islamic" holiday promoted "immorality and nudity".Tom Gillespie wrote in Express,com: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) issued an advisory warning television and radio stations against any Valentine’s Day celebrations. The broadcast said: “No event shall be held at the official level or at any public place.” |^/

In 2016, Kohat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province "banned the sale of greeting cards and all goods associated with the day." Maulana Niaz Muhammad, an elected district official, said: "Valentine's Day has no legal basis and is against shari'a." However, the district government's order to ban the February 14 holiday was dismissed by the police officials, because it was perceived as a violation of human rights. Similar directives against Valentine's Day were issued by the local administration in Peshawar, and in Punjab province, in order to ensure that terrorists did not take advantage of the festivities to carry out terror attacks. Osama Naseer, a Lahore-based leader of Islami Jamiat Tulaba, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, said: "Valentine's Day is not a tenet of Muslims." [February 28, 2016]

Getting Around Pakistan’s Valentine’s Day Ban

After the Valentine’s Day ban was announced in 2017, Pamela Constable wrote in the Washington Post, Sajjad Ayub knew he was taking a chance. A Pakistani court had just banned public observances of Valentine’s Day in the capital, but he had gone ahead and set up a roadside display of pink rosebud wreaths. Just before noon, a municipal truck roared up. Several workers got out and swept all his flowers onto the sidewalk. Ayub, 21, waited until they had left, opened a bag hidden under his stand, and pulled out some pink teddy bears. “I’m a Muslim, and I support the court’s action, but it would be a big business loss for me,” he said with an embarrassed shrug.“ [Source: Pamela Constable, Washington Post, February 14, 2017]

“At the curb, cars kept pulling up and men in business suits kept jumping out, looking for something to take home to their wives after work. Haroon Khan, 40, a car salesman, picked out a US$10 bride-and-groom statuette. “Life is short,” he said. “If one day a year you give your wife something special to make her smile, what is the harm in that?”

Valentine’s Day is easy to associate with the Western vulgarity and promiscuity that Islamist clerics often rail against. “Everyone wants to celebrate today,” said Arfan Khan, 21, a college student who was buying a bunch of roses for a friend. “Everyone is becoming more aware of American culture, but that’s not the point. With all the problems Pakistan has, why shouldn’t we have one day for happiness?”

Tom Gillespie wrote in Express,com: “More than 60 per cent of the population of Pakistan is aged under 30, so businesses have used the February 14 celebration to increase sales of flowers, roses and hearts. Salman Mahmod, a florist, said: “I don't know what danger these Islamists would face if I earn a little more from selling flowers and someone can have a chance to celebrate something. Young people are not too afraid of the ban.” Abid Ansari, 21, said: “I will celebrate. It’s my choice. This is my choice." [Source: Tom Gillespie, Express,com, February 8, 2018]

Baloch Holidays

The Baloch, also know the Balochi, Baluch or Baluchi, are an ethnic group that live primarily in the sandy plains, deserts and barren mountains of southeast Iran, southwest Pakistan and southern Afghanistan.

Baloch celebrate the Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha (Eid-ul-Azha), the Feast of Sacrifice that falls at the end of the Islamic year. During these festivals people adorn their houses, wear new dresses, cook special dishes, visit each other and begin the day with prayers. Many spend their time gambling, horseracing and merrymaking. [Source: “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures,” The Gale Group, 1999 /=]

Eid al-Adha is celebrated with the sacrifice of goats and sheep. The meat is distributed among relatives, friends, and the poor. Alms (donations) are given to beggars. The tenth day of the month of Muharram is observed by visits to the graves of relatives, followed by prayers and the giving of alms to the poor. Baloch pay less attention to celebrating festivals than do other Muslim peoples in South Asia. /=\

Eid-Meladun-Nabi honor the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Other colorful social festivals are held. The Sibi festival traces its roots back to 9,000-year-old Mehergar, an archeological site, and attracts people from across the country. It features folk music performance, cultural dances, handicrafts stalls, cattle shows and a number of other amusing activities. Buzkashi is a favorite sport in Balochista. It is played on horse-back by two teams that use their skills to snatch a goat from the each other. [Source: Government Of Balochistan,]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (, Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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