By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: As the holy month of Ramadan began, many Kuwaitis and residents prepared for the festival of gergean after two years of restrictions imposed by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19. Gergean is marked annually in the middle of Ramadan, where children wear traditional clothes and tour neighborhoods while carrying candy bags and singing.
Kuwaiti historian Khaled Al-Rasheed said that the gergean is a heritage festival celebrated by the people of the Gulf, where the celebration’s name changes from country to country, noting that the name “gergean” in the Kuwaiti dialect came from the sound of drums that children used to beat to celebrate this occasion. He added that it is usually celebrated on the nights of the 13th, 14th, and 15th of the month, adding that in the past, children used to gather in groups with a leader to roam the neighborhoods asking for sweets.
Rasheed pointed out that many years ago, children used to go with a small drum or a wooden box and hit it with a stick to make a rhythmic sound while singing the gergean’s songs in front of neighbors’ houses. After the singing, the owner of the house would distribute candy and sometimes money from a large basket made of palm fronds or fabric. The song’s lyric is kind of a prayer, wishing the family and children living in that house good health and protection from God.
Kuwait Times toured some co-ops and sweet stores to get an insight about the prices and ask the opinions of customers at the gergean’s market. Mohammed Al-Haggan told Kuwait Times that some kinds of gergean have almost doubled in price, noting that a bag of gergean weighing two kilograms rose from KD 2,990 to 3,450.
For Um Abdulrahman, the price of gergean depends on the quality of sweets and the shape of the packaging. “The packaging is the reason behind high prices in the markets, but we have to celebrate it since it is a Kuwaiti traditional habit and we are keen to revive it and to bring joy and happiness to the hearts of children,” she said.
She told Kuwait Times that due to COVID-19, people did not participate in such celebration but now after getting back to normal with no masks required, people are eager to celebrate. “This makes the demand higher than the previous year, and the prices of sweets raised to the roof,” she said. In the meantime, Fatima Al-Masaeed said “I bought yesterday a ready-made gergean basket from a famous shop for KD 40. The basket has 35 small boxes. I could get a cheaper one, but the quality of chocolate is fancier than the others.”
“The basket’s price ranges between KD 15 and 50, which contains up to 40 small bags of mixed sweets. The separate small boxes of sweets range between 1.250 and 3.500 per piece,” she added. Hafid Omar affirmed that gergean has become overrated and it is all about showing off. “I got gergean for my children because they are jealous of their friends. I bought yesterday sweet bags containing small-sized chocolate, jelly, gums, and chips. It cost KD 2 per bag,” he explained.
For some people, gergean is an opportunity for family and friends to gather while making their children feel loved. Amal Bassem told Kuwait Times that gergean is a nice occasion to be celebrated and smart buying is the answer to the expensive prices in the market.
She said that she prepares gergean by herself, where she goes to wholesale shops and buys 20 bags for KD 1. “If you act smart and have a lot of children attending, then wholesale stores are the best place. They have different kinds and colors of packaging. Then I buy the chocolate, sweets, and nuts from the co-op offers,” she said
As for Um Mohammad, gergean sweets can be bought online. “I support the small business market. I bought gergean from an Instagram account that sells 20 bags of mixed candy for KD 25. I prefer scrolling through social media stores than driving from one market to another to search for the right one to buy.” She affirmed that not only the prices of sweets have risen, but also the prices of traditional clothes that the kids wear at gergean where the prices are between KD 5 and 25 depending on the design and fabric.
“Gergean is a great tradition to celebrate with my sons and grandchildren,” Um Mohammad added. We organize a night full of activities, sweet bags distribution, and valuable prizes.” She pointed out that she had prepared the event to bring joy and pleasure to children and adults in the house.
Lulwa Al-Hamid stressed meanwhile the importance of organizing a simple family celebration of gergean, saying that spending the night with the family is all she needed, adding that gergean is one of the most important traditions that remain in the memory of children, especially as it enhances social bonding. “Gergean is a great historical traditional celebration. But nowadays unfortunately, it has become a phenomenon of luxury event with the luxurious packaging of sweets, money, and clothes,” she said. “It’s become a nice photo on social media stories.”