A Sweet Celebration

October 3, 2016
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BY VICKY MCFARLANE

On the 15th night of the Islamic month of Ramadan, the streets of Bahrain come alive. Colourful decorations adorn the walls and doors of homes, while the sound of children singing, laughing and banging on drums, can be heard throughout the neighbourhood. The night is called ‘Qarqeaan’, known locally as ‘Gergaoon’, and it is one of the Island’s most loved cultural celebrations!

Celebrated across the Muslim community, although observed primarily in the Arab States of the Gulf, Gergaoon is a festive night of fun and celebration. Children, dressed in traditional clothes and laden with colorful bags, bang on drums, and sing a traditional song from door to door in the hope of receiving candy and nuts, or ‘halwa’ and ‘mokassarat’. The song, which calls on Allah to bless the youngest child of the family and keep him or her healthy, is an important part of the ritual, and according to folklore heritage researchers, has not changed for centuries.

The eon-96118old tradition is intended to spread love and happiness, and goes all the way back to the time of the Prophet Mohammed, may peace and blessings be upon him (PBUH). The custom began with the birth of Hasan ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib, the grandson of the Prophet (PBUH). The date was the 15th of Ramadan 624, and on hearing the news of the birth, the children of Medina gathered around the Prophet’s (PBUH) house singing “Qarrat Al Ain, Qarrat Al Ain Wa Ajr AlJo’an”, which roughly translates to “congratulations, congratulations, be blessed for feeding the hungry.” The Prophet rewarded the singing children with sweets, dates and raisins, starting a tradition that would continue for more than 1400 years.

Today, the heart and spirit of this loving tradition remains alive, however the beauty of the custom is really in its simplicity – and this simplicity may be diminishing. Once a celebration limited to small neighbourhoods and extended family homes, gergaoon has now become an event celebrated in the corporate world. Organisations now hold gergaoon celebrations that are held in luxurious Ramadan tents and publicized in newspapers and social media.

The attire for the festivities has also seen some innovation, branded jalabiyas and designer  outfits are replacing the more traditional clothes that were once the night’s norm. As well as the clothing, the gergaoon treats have also witnessed a transformation.

Retail stores now maximize on the opportunity, creating tailored, giveaways that often include elaborately decorated packaging with pictures of the family’s children dressed in their finest. Additionally, the customary delicious sweets and nuts are sometimes accompanied by gifts of money.

Despite the changes this rich tradition has seen, one thing remains the same – it makes children happy! And, as an old Arabian proverb says: “He that makes a young child happy is the same as the one who has made an apostle happy”!

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