Halloween in the Middle East – Do people celebrate?
Happy Halloween! The spookiest time of the year is upon us, and no doubt both adults and children alike will be dressing up as their favourite fictional characters and going off into the night. This got us thinking – do people in other parts of the world celebrate Halloween too? Keep reading to find out!
Orthodox Jewish families don’t usually participate in Halloween celebrations since it’s deemed to be against their beliefs. However, in Israel they have a similar festival called ‘Purim’, which celebrates the saving of the Jewish people from the Persian Empire. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew Month Adar, which usually falls in March. Children dress up in special costumes and exchange gifts and treats. They go from house to house visiting the ill, and bring gifts of food and drink, as well as collecting money for the needy.
A traditional food eaten on Purim is called Hamantashen (pictured above), a triangular, three-cornered pastry that is usually filled with either a poppyseed mixture or jam.
Eid-il-Burbara, or Saint Barbara’s day, is celebrated on the 4th of December among Christians across the Middle East, and commemorates Barbara’s conversion to Christianity even among pressure from her father and the Romans that were persecuting her at the time. The belief among Lebanese Christians is that Saint Barbara disguised herself as many different characters to elude the Romans who were persecuting her, which is why children are encouraged to dress up in their favourite outfits during this time of year.
A common practice in Lebanon on Eid il-Burbara finds its source on the legend of Saint Barbara who was believed to have witnessed a miracle while fleeing persecution. She ran through freshly planted wheat fields, which grew instantly to cover her path. This miracle is recreated symbolically today by planting wheat seeds (or chick peas, barley grains, beans, lentils, etc.) in cotton wool on Saint Barbara’s feast day.
In Qatar, children traditionally celebrate a festival called Garangao on the 14th night of Ramadan.
During the festival, children get dressed up in special robes in a variety of styles and colours, carry bags around their neck, and venture round in groups around the neighbourhood singing special Garangao songs. They knock on the doors of neighbours and ask for sweets and nuts from them, similar to tradition of trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Malls and cultural centres often organise special events where children are given a chance to participate in a range of activities and are given various gifts by their elders. The festival is celebrated across the Gulf Region, and is known by different names across the region – Garangao or Garangaou in Qatar and Bahrain, Karkee’aan or Qariqaan in Saudi Arabia, Gargee’aan in Kuwait, Al-Majeena Karkiaan in Iraq, Garangashoch, At-Tablah or Qarnakosh in Oman, and Hag Al Leylah in UAE.
So Halloween isn’t a big celebration in the Middle East, but they do have traditions and practices which are very similar. Are there any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!