The first time we spent Ramadhan in Kuwait, I found it curious that, after iftaar, children went house to house ringing doorbells, and were given candy and sweets, almost like Halloween’s “trick-or-treating”. I had many friends with young school-going children and on a particular day in Ramadhan, they would be asked to dressed in traditional costumes and bring gifts of candy and sweets to exchange with their friends.
This is the mid-Ramadhan Kuwaiti tradition which is celebrated from the 13th to the 15th nights of Ramadhan known as Girgean (“mixture of different things”). This special celebration for kids is also celebrated in Qatar where it’s called Garangaou, in Bahrain – Gargaaoun, and in the UAE where they call it Hag Allah.
Since the old days, kids eagerly waited for this night of the year to dress up, go house to house visiting neighbours, lighting the streets with their special Ramadhan lanterns and letting everyone know they’re coming as they beat their drums and sing old Girgean songs. Each of them would carry a colourful bag, which would have been sewn specially for the occasion by their mothers, to collect all the candy they are going to get. Almost every house would have a basketful of candy, sweets, nuts and dried fruit waiting for the kids to arrive. The kids would come, sing a song and the owner would pour a handful of the treats into their bags.
It used to be a very simple occasion for children but like many things, it apparently has lost its genuine simplicity. It has become a great commercial opportunity for businesses since now, girgean parties are held, parents spend great sums decorating their homes for a first-born’s girgean, and womenfolk prepare months in advance to have the best and most unique and beautiful girgean presentations. Many even purchase specially made goody bags, toys or other favours from their travels so that theirs is really unique. One year, one of my close Kuwaiti friends sent me a beautiful birdhouse filled with girgean goodies.
Of course, there are still kids ringing our doorbells and knocking our doors, but the celebration has become commercial. Even companies take the opportunity to promote their businesses with unique giveaways for their staff and clients. Hubby has brought home something different every year from his company.
From the early days of Ramadhan, supermarkets are filled with pre-prepared bags of girgean treats.
And the souqs are filled with an array of beautifully ornamented traditional Kuwaiti clothing for children of all ages. And all kinds of bags and containers for girgean.
The first time the children rang our doorbell many years ago, we weren’t prepared. But thankfully I managed to put something together and the kids didn’t go home empty-handed!
I remember three years ago when I was last here for Ramadhan, we went with the flow and bought our girgean mix then eagerly waited for the kids to come. At first I took handfuls of girgean and put it in their little bags but later I just held the bag and asked them to take what they wanted! Big mistake, because everyone wanted to do it all at the same time! I asked them to sing and they did but unfortunately I didn’t record it.
Well, tonight is the night that Girgean begins, and I’m all set. I bought our girgean treats a few days ago and its in a bowl by the door just waiting for the little ones. I hope they come this year!