I wrote this initially at the end of November, and never got around to sharing it. I’m realizing that I have lots of posts already drafted like that, so I’ll share all of those in the coming few weeks.
A popular news story (picked up by NPR, The Guardian, etc.) last month focused on a television program here in Senegal that followed a sheep competition in Dakar. The show aired around the time of Tabaski, or Eid al-Adha (as it’s known in the rest of the Muslim world), the biggest holiday here in Senegal. As the holiday of sacrifice, those families with the means buy and kill sheep (our family of twenty-something people had five). Considering that here in Senegal animals represent wealth and that traditionally, people sell sheep instead of withdrawing money from the bank, the pride in a sheep’s appearance depicted in the television program might make more sense.
At my family’s house, festivities started at around 9am with the killing of our sheep. I conveniently didn’t show up until 10 or so, when many family members (mostly males) were already skinning and butchering the sheep. Watching that process take place is something I still haven’t gotten used to. Predictably, in some ways I like it a lot more than the ways we handle meat in the US (more sustainable/natural/respectful), but it continues to sort of grosses me out, having been a vegetarian for so long. (Side-note: I’ve learned to cook meat in this country–I’d never done it at home).
The majority of the day is spent with family, sitting around waiting for the first batches of meat to finish grilling (which happens at around noon), for lunch to be ready (approximately 4pm), or for the kids to put on their fancy new outfits and go around to the houses of relatives/neighbors to greet (7pm). Despite being the biggest holiday, most adults (at least in my family) didn’t even bother getting dressed up in their new clothes on the night of Tabaski (the custom of greeting neighbors/welcoming visitors extended on to the following day). Instead, everyone spent the day lounging around with family, comfortable and relaxed, intermittently eating really good food. Happily, this is what Christmas day looks like with my parents at home too, and the holiday felt quite comforting for that reason.
On a related note, I’ve started this as a way to share the photos I’m taking (and as a way to motivate myself to bring my camera around with me more often). I’ve posted more Tabaski pictures there.