‘Hag Al Laila’ celebrations mean traditional songs, sweets and games


Shereen Shabnam

Growing up in Fiji, we never celebrated Hag Al Laila…. some fasted and prayed as it was a special time but I love this tradition being celebrated in the UAE.

The voices of young children singing ‘Atoona Hag Al Laila’ or ‘Give us sweets for tonight’, resonated recently throughout the Heart of Sharjah as Sharjah Heritage Days marked the occasion of the annual Hag Al Laila with sweets, games, and several fun activities.

A centuries-old traditional Emirati celebration, Hag Al Laila is observed on the night of the 15th of Sha’ban, the hijri month preceding the Holy Month of Ramadan. On this night, children go door-to-door in the neighbourhood and sing songs while collecting sweets and treats.

Children dress in traditional attire with colourful handwoven baskets filled with assorted varieties of candies, peanuts, chocolate sticks, and little juice bottles.

The young participants at Sharjah Heritage days event were delighted to fill up their goodie bags – each bearing their name in distinctive Arabic calligraphy – with the sweets of their choice. They engaged in several games including hopscotch, blindfolded painting, and basketball, while also learning about the nation’s pearling heritage through a game that challenged them to discover pearls in oysters.

Live cooking sessions, storytelling and watching old children’s movies completed the festive atmosphere at the Children’s Village which was decked up in colourful Ramadan décor.

For children and adults alike, the Hag Al Laila celebrations raise greater awareness of the annual cultural practice and enables members of the community to bond with each other. I hope we get this tradition started in Fiji too.

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