Tabaski-I survived but the rams didn’t

Tabaski is the largest Muslim holiday of the year and just happens to be my first one in Senegal. I was warned that it’s crazy, rams are killed, butchered and eaten over 3 days of celebration. To me in an otherwise quiet country-this sounded find to me, maybe.

“Tabaski commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismael in obedience to God. At the last minute, God provided a ram to be sacrificed instead in reward for Ibrahim’s obedience to God. In commemoration of this even. Muslims around the world celebrate by slaughtering a ram (goat, cow, etc, depending upon on location and family’s wealth), dividing it into shares and celebrating with friends and family. Tabaski occurs approximately two months and 10 days after Korite and the end of Ramadan.”

So far eating goat meat sounds like a nice to change to all the rice I have been eating with various fish, and occasional chicken and vegetable dishes. But remember I’m in a developing country and do have electricity and “running” (aka A water spicket that provides water for most of the day for all the water needs of my family) but refrigeration can be harder to come by. Luckily my family had a refrigerator.

Miniature version of men’s dress in Senegal, my nephew Abdul

So the morning of the 1st day all the men get dressed up around 9 am and leave to go to the Masque to pray. On their return, around 10 am the rams and married men (1 ram per married man in the compound) is slaughtered in a very quick throat cutting process. Teenagers and other boys help keep the animals still before and after the deed has been done.

No need to tell you what’s going on here

After the rams have passed they are then butchered on site. For me this is nothing new, I grew up helping on my grandparents working farm butchering chickens for many years along with my oldest brother trapping and skinning vermin for their pelts. (Yes I have lived in that small of town with that back-country of life) The other part of this is that every part of edible meat is used, although it might not be cleaned the best. I will leave the rest to your imagination-it’s better honestly.

We eat lunch around 2-3 pm so it looks like we are all starving even if you are just more hungry than usual that day and the food doesn’t last long here. Volunteers and I have discussed how we now eat fast to get what we want out of the communal bowls with our host families rather than eating slow and savoring the flavor. We do that more when we are at the center for training and there is more than enough food and we are adults (rather than eating with 7 small children who grab and sneeze into the bowl with reckless abandon)

 After we’ve cut up enough onions, potatoes and ram to kill someone and
ate a good amount of it. You start to very slowly get cleaned up. You take a short nap, you take a bucket bath and start around sunset to get dressed for the night in your Tabaski outfit.

Tabaski is much like prom for Senegal except without a date and a huge party to go to. The women spend the week, if not months, before saving money to have their hair braided or have extensions put on the week/few days before and to have a few outfits made. Both of which are not cheap.

During this week I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a tumble weed of hair going through our small town. Hair is talked about in terms of packets of hair extensions used or how much money was spent on it, not the time it took to do it. But the transformation is pretty incredible.

My sister-in-law Mimona and her daughter Mi

Mi, my niece

Aarma, one of the next door wives

After the women are dressed up they leave to go visit their friends at their houses. Sadly I do not have a picture of my dress, but I will have one for swearing in at the end of this month. Tabaski lasts for 3 night were I was in country, so I went the first night with some of my family to go visit. The strange thing about this was that the families we visited were not dressed up for the occasion and were simply lounging at home. And of all the awkwardness of being in another culture and meeting people all the time that you have no idea of their importance, going to visit people on Tabaski was the most awkward. The four of us women would go inside someone’s room, sit on the bed, and hardly make any small talk (as in hardly I mean none), be offered something to drink (usually soda of some flavor), drink it, watch whatever was on the tv in that room and then leave. All short of maybe 10 minutes. We did this repeatedly at 4 houses before going back home and it all took around an hour.

As for being the largest event of the year, I was very surprised how low key it was. There was no drumming, dancing, or grandness of the event that seemed more important any other. People traveled home to be with their families, so there were a number of extended family members home at everyone. All in all a pretty good holiday.

NOTE: This holiday happened a month ago.

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