Sunday, November 29, 2009
Eid Al-Shukr and Eid Al-Kibeer: The Final Countdown for Turkey and Sheep
Team Farah post Turkey Trot
This year, Thanksgiving (Eid Al-Shukr) and The Holiday of the Sacrifice (Eid Al-Adha) happened to fall on the same weekend. In the United States, Thanksgiving is supposed to commemorate all the provision that God provided for the first European settlers after their first difficult year. As the folklore goes, the pilgrims feasted with their families and neighbors, giving thanks to God as an expression of faith. In modern times, Thanksgiving is typically commemorated by families getting together to feast ourselves silly, share stories, watch football, complain about politics, and maybe go around and say one thing we are thankful for. It’s a good time had by all.
In the Muslim world, one of the most important holidays is the Eid Al-Adha, also known as Eid Al-Kibeer (literally “The Big Holiday”). When I was in Senegal, this holiday was known as Tabaski. This Eid celebrates the story of Abraham almost sacrificing his son Ishmael. As the folklore goes, God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son Ishmael without reservations, as an expression of his faith in God and trust in God’s divine plan. After all, God had promised Abraham that he would raise up a great nation from his only son…now he was asking Abraham to kill the person that was dearest to him, and the promise that accompanied him. At the last minute, when poor, confused Abraham is about to go through with the sacrifice, God speaks to him and provides a ram for the sacrifice instead, rewarding Abraham for his great faith. [NOTE: Ishmael, the son of Abraham’s servant Hagar, went on to be the father of the Arab nation from which Islam immerged. In the Torah and Old Testament Bible, Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son by his wife Sarah, later the father of the Israelite nation. You follow?]
In modern times, throughout the Arab world, the Eid is typically commemorated by each family saving up all year to buy a ram, sheep, cow, or if you’re really rich, a camel. The morning of the Eid, after prayers at the mosque, the patriarch of each family (or a hired male butcher) kills the sheep by cutting it’s throat, skins it, cleans it out, and then the women set to work cooking. For lunch, the innerds are grilled, then for dinner the meat is served in a variety of dishes, according to each culture’s traditional cuisine. Half the meat is supposed to be donated to a poor family, but there is always plenty to eat. It’s a good time had by all. Except vegitarians.
This year, after a morning Turkey Trot around the city of Fes, (Go Team Farah!) I celebrated Thanksgiving with other Americans and Brits at a potluck put on by my friends Natalie and Matt. The spread of food was familiar and impressive, especially considering that most ingredients had to be improvised. My favorite was Abby’s ginger cake with a picture of the King’s face stenciled in cinnamon. I happened to find corn flour, so I made Gluten-Free Apple Pie turnovers, which went over well I think. It was such a pleasant dinner party, and I took a moment just to observe the room around me and be fully thankful for the grace that has brought me to this point.
Then “Hey Ya!” came on and all reflective moments were shattered.
The next day, Cait, Kendra, and I were invited to Rod and Andrew’s house in time to watch the slaughter. Indeed, it was a holiday I wont soon forget. We headed over there in our new Moroccan Jelabas (like fancy mu-mus with hoods) in order to watch the guys’ host father and uncle kill, skin, and gut 2 hefty sheep. We sat and observed the whole ordeal with a mix of horror, fascination, and polite obeisance. The men made quick work of it, then the ladies of the house cut up the liver and heart, wrapped it in fat, and grilled it over charcoal. I have to admit, fat-wrapped liver kebobs - aside from being heart disease on a stick – is pretty delicious.
We sat and chatted with the family, and I had a second moment of quiet gratefulness for the place that I’m in at this moment in my life. Both holidays celebrate thankfulness for God’s provision, and both cultures place importance good meals shared with family and loved ones this season.
Happy Eid Al-Shukr and Happy Eid Al-Kibeer, everyone. If you were here, I’d save the sheep’s eyeballs especially for you!