Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Haq Al Laila: why children might demand sweets from you this weekend

Also known as gerga’aan, the annual Gulf celebration gives children an excuse to demand treats from their neighbours

If your doorbell rings on Saturday and you are greeted with children whose singing may sound a little closer to screaming, do not be alarmed. This is not a mistimed trick or treating spree, this is Haq Al Laila.

Also known as gerga’aan, the annual Gulf celebration gives children an excuse to demand treats from their family, friends and neighbours.

But what is Haq Al Laila?

It is a tradition celebrated in Gulf countries. Children wear traditional clothes and carry colourful woven coloured bags, going door-to-door singing in return for nuts and sweets. The rounds begin after Maghreb prayers and the most eager children will often shout the songs rather than singing them, hoping it will lead to a greater bounty.

When it is celebrated?

In the UAE, Haq Al Laila is celebrated on the night of Shaaban 15 on the Islamic calendar — during the month that precedes Ramadan. This year it falls on Saturday April 20 but celebrations tend to begin early. The same practice is celebrated on the 15th day of Ramadan, but called gerga’aan in Iraq, Kuwai, Qatar, Bahrain and some cities in Saudi. It is celebrated on the same day in Oman too, but called Qarnqashouh.

How it is celebrated today?

The tradition of going door-to-door is still practised, although not as widespread as in the past. Neighbourhoods where children can still be heard in the streets include residential areas in Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Khor Fakkan.

Children sing in Arabic “Atona Allah yatek bet Makkah Ywdekom” which translates to “give us something so that God will give you something and bless you with visiting the holy mosque”. Evenings often end with children rifling through their loot and comparing yields.

Recently, Haq Al Laila has become a more organised celebration and are held in schools, government offices and in homes.

People prepare boxes or small bags filled with sweets and hand them out to the children.

Updated: April 18, 2019 09:01 PM

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