Girgian – The Middle Eastern ‘Trick or Treat’

One huge PARTY!

Girgian is a traditional 3-day Middle-Eastern festival, which is celebrated on the 13th, 14th and 15th night of Ramadan, depending on the day it is a full moon. This day marks the end of half-Ramadan and is celebrated to reward children for fasting and to encourage them to fast every Ramadan.

Girgian is known by different names in different parts of the Middle-Eastern world. In Kuwait and Saudi Arabia it is known as ‘Girgian’ or ‘Gergeaan’, as ‘Garangao’ in Qatar, ‘Gargaaon’ in Bahrain, ‘Garangasho’ in Oman, ‘Mageena Karkiaan’ in Iraq and ‘Hag Allah’ in UAE.

Children sing traditional songs and go door to door collecting candies. Special Girgian events take place at the malls, parks and other areas of kids’ attraction. Private Girgian parties are organized and kids are treated to a lot of fun, gifts and candies. This festival has no origin in Islam and has no religious significance at all. It is purely a cultural tradition. The similarity of Girgian to Halloween ends at the candies and there is absolutely no room for horror.

Tracing back its ORIGIN…

The exact origin of Girgian is unknown but some historians suggest that this tradition dates back to the time when Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) grandson, Hasan Ibn Ali was born. To celebrate the birth of her new born, the Prophet’s daughter Fatima distributed colored sugar cubes to people, on the 15th of Ramadan. The kids of Medina then gathered around the Prophet’s house to congratulate them by singing “Qarrat Al Ain, Qarrat Al Ain” which translates to “Congratulations, Congratulations.”

Another theory suggests that Girgian is derived from the Arabic word ‘Qarqa’ah’, which is the sound of tin buckets filled with sweets clicking together. Candies surely seemed to be a kids’ favorite even back then!

Time to DRESS up!

Before the onset of Ramadan, the markets in the Gulf countries get filled with traditional Girgian dresses. The beautiful girly dresses known as ‘Daraa’ come in beautiful bright colors and have pretty borders, laces, trinkets and pompoms. Most of these dresses are made locally with colorful and kitsch fabrics sourced from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Each dress comes with a matching sling bag, which is used to collect the candies in. Boys usually wear a long white or beige robe known as the ‘Dishdasha’ and pair it with some fancy traditional waist coats and head gears. Watching these cute, dolled-up kids stroll all around is surely a delightful sight.

It’s CANDY time!

Chocolates, wafers, cookies, soft chewy candies, hard candies, marshmallows, lollipops, chewing gum, sugar coated nuts…did I miss anything? Markets and grocery stores all around the country are filled with these candies (in BULK!) Every store is competing with each other by discounting candies by the dozen. Girgian themed individual boxes, bags and baskets filled with candies are a huge hit with most kids. Also, they are easier to distribute or give away. Most corporates have also started giving away these candy favors to their employees, to mark the Girgian festival. Candies seem to become an adult-favorite too at this time of the year.

Lessons to learn…

We can surely learn a few life lessons from this wonderful Middle-Eastern tradition.
• It is always a good idea to reward children for their efforts. This can go a long way in motivating them do better.
• Celebrating small achievements will encourage us to look forward to bigger achievements.
• Sharing our joys (and CANDIES) with others will make us happier.

Making celebrations fun and memorable is a good way of inculcating the traditional values into our children. They will carry it on forward and make it a part of their life.

  Minali Bajaj-Syed is an Indian, born and settled in Kuwait. Having lived in Kuwait, India and the United States, She has had the opportunity to experience a diverse set of cultures. She thus, considers herself a global citizen. She is always learning, evolving and trying to spread some positivism. On most days, she is a mother to two kids and a food blogger on Instagram @cinnamon_cardamom.


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