Garangao - the children's festival is traditionally celebrated throughout the Middle East after breaking of the fast on the 14th of Ramadan and will be marked in Qatar with weeklong festivities. The festival is known by different names in each region: Garangao or Garangaou in Bahrain and Qatar, Qariqaan or Karkee'aan in Saudi Arabia, Al-Majeena Karkiaan in Iraq, Gargee'aan in Kuwait, Hag Al Leylah in UAE and Garangashoch, Qarnakosh or At-Tablah in Oman.
Garangao is so special to the Gulf region, particularly Qatar, and is assumed to have its roots in the pearl-diving tradition of the region. Over the years, the festival has gained more recognition with several expats joining the celebrations. Garangao is all about the kids and is reminiscent of Halloween in the West.
During the festival, Children get dressed up in bright, customary Qatari clothes; take a cloth bag and visit the houses in their vicinity, collecting nuts and sweets from their neighbors. They have a special cotton bag, hanging loosely around their necks in which they collect goodies. Kids will be seen enjoying around the streets until late into the night singing the special Garangao song. Nowadays people are not just interested in buying the goodies, but they opt for the specially designed bags and packets decorated with popular cartoon characters and other symbols liked by the children.
The actual meaning of Garangao is vague. Some consider the word is onomatopoeic and comes either from the sound of clanging stones or the sound of the nuts and sweets rumbling collectively in large baskets.
What is Garangao?
The Qatari people and government are more rigid in preserving the tradition and one of these things is the Qatari tradition of Garangaou during the holy month of Ramadan. Garanagou is essentially a children's tradition, for those aged twelve and under. In many ways it is reminiscent of the tradition of Halloween Trick 'n' Treat.
Qatari children celebrate this centuries-old Gulf tradition every year, on the 13th, 14th and 15th of Ramadan, in which they wear dressy traditional Qatari clothes, and after having finished their Iftaar meal at Maghrib, leave together in small groups around their neighborhood or Fareej, singing the Garangao folk song. They visit the houses and ask for their Garangaou "halaawa"(candies and sweets in Arabic).
Children wear special cotton bags around their necks which in earlier days their mothers used to sew them but now it can be purchased in shops during the festival.
The Origins of Garangaou
Garangaou folklore carries many different names and the folk songs that the children sing also differ from country to country. According to the Legend, Garangaou started off in the middle of Ramadan in the third year AH (after hijra) when the Prophet Mohammed's grandson Hassan was born. In fact, the Prophet Mohammed and his family were so delighted by the birth of Hassan in the sacred month, that the Prophet's daughter and Hassan's mother, Fatima, distributed colored sweets to all their neighbors and relatives. Meanwhile, there has been some row over the legitimacy of this legend, with many religious experts observe that Garangaou has no roots in Islam and is merely a cultural tradition.
However, the most important thing about Garangaou is that it dates back as far as the Abbasid period. The origin of the word "Gargee'aan" or "Garangaou" has its roots from the Gulf word "Gara", which is like the sound of the knocking of the children at people's gates and doors or like the sound of the nuts and sweets in the bag as a child carries it around their neck.
Although Garangaou tradition continues to be practiced in Qatar even today, it has changed with time like many aspects of tradition and culture. Many community centers and schools around Qatar have started to conduct special annual Garangaou events during and after school time. There are some international schools in Doha celebrating Garangaou, allowing kids to come into school in their traditional clothes and exchanging sweets and nuts with their friends (although some schools disallow nuts as some children may have nut allergies). Aristocratic and high-class families hold private Garangaou parties for their children and their children's friends and neighbours.
Garangaou is a tradition which reminds the Qatari community of their cultural past, brings the community and the children together, and celebrates children, the bliss of childhood and its purity, and the delight and happiness of Ramadan.