Gergaoun: The Gulf’s unique ‘Halloween’ tradition during Ramadan
As a reward for young fasting children, adults throw a celebration – usually celebrated on the 15th day of Ramadan
For many Muslims in the Gulf-Arab states, Ramadan can hold different meanings. For the younger generation, the month stands as a test of their faith as they attempt fasting for the first time.
As a reward for many young children, adults throw a celebration – usually celebrated on either the 13th, 14th or 15th of the Islamic calendar month of Ramadan – called Gergaoun, Gerge’an, Garangaoua or Hag el Leila depending on which GCC country one hails from.
A Halloween event of sorts, sans the scary costumes, girls are dressed in their best jalabeeyas (traditional colorful dresses) while the boys don their best thoubs (long white dress) and go door-to-door asking for sweet treats from their neighbors.
Or at least it used to be that way.
For many growing up in Bahrain in particular, it was not unusual to spend all night after evening prayers going from house to house in search of the best nuts and sweets one could gather. With time, that tradition has more or less faded, as families fear the unknown stranger.
Nowadays, families organize their own events, either in house or gatherings at malls to celebrate the decades-old tradition.
“The cities are getting bigger and many strangers are now living among us. We believe that it’s not safe anymore for our children to roam the streets and knock on doors,” Bahraini mother Alya Isa told Al Arabiya English.
The origin of the event allegedly goes back to the birth of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Hasan ibn Ali, when the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah gave out colored sugar cubes to the people in celebration of her child born on the 15th of Ramadan.
In modern times, the event gives corporate giants from supermarkets to telecom companies a chance to one up another by using Gergaoun as a premise for adverts, events and offers to attract old and new customers during the holy month.
As times change, traditions naturally evolve, but it is important to pass on the significance of the day to younger generations of Muslims, says one parent.
“While it’s too dangerous now to let our children out, we make sure to organize the event at our grandma’s house and let our kids who’ve been fasting patiently for 15 days be rewarded for their good efforts,” said Emirati mother Noora Marzooq.
It’s a shame they can’t experience the thrill of being left alone to wander around their own neighborhood like we use to, but as long as we keep doing this every year, Gergaoun as a cultural event will definitely endure,” she added.