By Ghadeer Ghloum

KUWAIT: When the holy month of Ramadan arrives, it is common to hear words that refer to celebrations related to this month, such as Girgian and ghabqa, among people in Kuwait. Such celebrations are very common and are part of the Kuwaiti heritage that is specifically linked to the month of Ramadan. However, traditional Kuwaiti events during the month of Ramadan do not stop at these two popular celebrations.

Graish is another Ramadan-related traditional event that people of Kuwait inherited from past generations. Unlike Girgian and ghabqa, Graish is celebrated on the last few days before the holy month of Ramadan begins. To further look into the history of Graish, Kuwait Times spoke to a local middle-aged woman, Om Ali, who has witnessed both the old and modern style of celebrating Graish in Kuwait.

How Kuwaitis used to celebrate Graish in the past

Om Ali shared with Kuwait Times an overview of what people used to do while celebrating Graish. “To celebrate Graish, people gather at the house of the eldest member of their family. Everyone prepares a dish of whatever food is left in their homes and takes it to the family gathering to eat together before it spoils. The main dish people used to eat at Graish is fish, because they do not usually eat fish during Ramadan, believing it makes them thirsty,” Om Ali said.

“Kuwaitis in olden times did not have fridges to prevent their food from rotting, so women came up with the ‘Graish’ tradition to eat the remaining food rather than waste it. Graish is the final gathering before Ramadan, which was initiated by Kuwaiti women in the olden days. On this day, women wake up early in the morning to clean up and light bukhoor in their homes to welcome Ramadan. Graish in the past used to be during the day at around 10:00 am and not at night, because women did not use to leave their homes at night, as Graish used to be celebrated by women only,” Om Ali said.

She also said people who celebrate Graish on the last day of Shaaban (the month before Ramadan) eat the food as suhour, because the next day marks the first day of Ramadan, which means that Muslims will be fasting.

Where does the word “Graish” come from?

According to Om Ali, the word Graish is influenced by the Kuwaiti onomatopoeic word “Gargesha”, which refers to the sound the coins make when someone puts their hand in their pocket to take them out. This gesture shows generosity, as people who did not have anything to bring from home would go and buy something to share with their relatives.

Modern-style Graish

Kuwait Times asked Om Ali about the difference between celebrating Graish in the past and today. “Today people are gathering at night and bringing food from restaurants to celebrate Graish in adherence to the contemporary lifestyle that Kuwaitis have nowadays. It is true that a few things have changed, but it remains a very lovely reason to bring family members together,” she said. Regardless of how Graish has changed in terms of timing and food, the main thing is that the family gathering remains, and this is where the real value of this tradition lies.