The Semi-Annual Arab Version of Halloween; Gargee’an.

Halloween is a holiday people wait for every year. On October 31st, they celebrate by dressing up in costumes and participating in activities such as trick-or-treating, jack-o-lantern carving and gatherings.

 

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Even though Halloween is not a part of my culture, I have celebrated it about 3 times in my 20-year life. It never crossed my mind that it actually is a part of my culture and that I’ve been celebrating it my entire childhood, just under a different name.

 

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As an Arab, and more specifically as an Iraqi, I have been celebrating what in Iraq is called, “Gargee’an”. Gargee’an is a tradition that is marked by children dressing up in traditional attire, going door-to-door, singing traditional songs and getting sweets from their neighbours. It is celebrated on the 15th of both Sha’ban (which is an Islamic month) and Ramadan.

I remember when I used to dress up as a kid in my colorful, patterned and traditional costume. My mom would sew a customized cloth bag to match my outfit. Me and the other kids from the neighbourhood would go in groups, knock on the neighbors’ doors and sing our Gargee’an songs, demanding for candy of course (just another causal demand of a kid after all!).

I find the intermingling of my own Iraqi culture and the Canadian culture a beautiful recipe for the formation of my identity. I am lucky to get to experience the world from many different perspectives, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned as time has passed, it’s that there is beauty in similarity too.

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Gargee’an is semi-annual while Halloween is annual, and there is no original association of Gargee’an with either horror or Halloween (Wikipedia). However, Gargee’an and Halloween remind me of how we as human beings are all unique in our own ways.

Different cultures have different traditions, yet so many things are actually similar from one culture to another. Just like there should be concentration on gender similarities rather than gender differences, I believe there should be more concentration on the similarities between cultures.

 

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Here is my advice to everyone out there who is trying to comply to the world’s demand of being unique, but not too unique: I say, be unique or not too unique and demand to be accepted by the world no matter what. It’s only fair to take turns after all. Although it’s fun to put on a costume and to pretend to be something or someone you’re not, don’t feel obligated to do so everyday. Show the world your true identity and always be proud of it, whether you’re from the West and celebrate Halloween, or from the East and celebrate Gargee’an.

 

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