Friday, December 25, 2009


Tabaski is the Islamic holiday celebrating the time when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, which Abraham was ready to do so, but then God stopped him at the last moment and told him to sacrifice a sheep instead. (See Genesis 22) Every family (that can afford to) is supposed to buy a sheep to kill for Tabaski. In fact, every adult male that is married or the head of the family in some way should buy a sheep. So my family bought and killed 7 sheep – one for every adult male in my family (i.e., my dad and his 6 brothers that live in my compound or the compound across the street from us).

Everyone goes back to their respective home villages (or towns/cities) for Tabaski to spend the holiday with their families, much like families in America do for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. When they go home, they always bring back a lot of gifts – food, clothes, accessories, toys, etc. Everyone typically gets new, nice clothes, too, and I was part of that “everyone” – so I got my second Senegalese outfit made, this time with more expensive fabric that my host mom, Suckeye, helped me pick out. She liked the idea of getting the same outfit made for me and Kate, the volunteer before me in Kaymor (since she’s still here in Senegal and was going to go back to Kaymor for Tabaski), so we have the exact same outfit (see pictures below).

The first day of Tabaski (it is a 3-day holiday), all the sheep are killed in the morning, then the women spend most of the late morning and early afternoon cutting up all the meat and cooking a large lunch (of meat, onions, and potatoes, with other stuff usually, too). Then everyone showers and puts on their new clothes and walks around the village in the early evening into the night, greeting people, saying “I’m sorry; forgive me” (same phrase as is used during Korite – see my post on Korite in October), and saying “You look so great! You’ve changed so much!” (another standard Tabaski tradition – this is a specific phrase that everyone says, like the “I’m sorry; forgive me” phrase is a specific phrase). This same evening activity occurs all three days. The kids also walk around in small groups and adults give them really small money coins or candy or something – Kate and I gave the kids hard candy, which they all really liked.

No one officially works during the three days of Tabaski – in other words, no one goes out to the fields, and all the shops and stores and whatnot are closed, except for boutiques obviously, since people still need to buy food to cook with, tea and sugar to make tea, etc. Most people take this time to sit with family and friends and talk and make tea – two things Senegalese people are very good at. :)

After taking pictures of my dad, uncles, brothers, cousins, and Talibe boys kill and skin the seven sheep on the first morning ofTabaski, I helped my mom cut up some of the meat (my aunts cut up some, too, in their compound across the street). It was a new experience for me to say the least – enjoyable to an extent… :) Literally every part of the sheep is eaten here except for the hooves (see pictures below of the cuts of meat), which is not unlike meat in America, it’s just that the vast majority of people don’t see all the different cuts of meat and things like the intestines are eaten directly by people but are rather put into other foods (for people or animals). It’s nice that we have electricity here in Kaymor, because we were able to freeze the vast majority of our meat – which meant that we were eating that meat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (or some combination of the three) for a couple weeks after Tabaski. Needless to say, I was always very excited to see fish in our lunch or dinner bowl as a change from our sheep meat… and I was not sad when the last bag of meat was taken out of the freezer for lunch. :) Those families that don’t have freezers would bring bags of meat to other families that do have freezers to keep the meat in their freezer, so our freezer was almost completely full of meat by the end of the first day of Tabaski.

WARNING: The pictures below involve lots of dead sheep and sheep meat, so if that’s not your cup of tea, I’d advise you to not scroll down and look at all the pictures.

My dad and cousin (in the shorts and t-shirt) watching as my 3 uncles and younger step-brother, Babacar (in the black), kill a sheep.

Sheep #1 – one down, six to go

My uncles killing a sheep by slitting its throat and letting it bleed to death.

My two (tall) step brothers, Babacar (in the black t-shirt) and Moustapha (in the white shirt and jeans), along with my little brother, Moussa, and uncles

The guys starting to skin one sheep…only six to go. :)

Skinning the sheep…continued

Starting the process of cutting the sheep into different cuts of meat.

Kate with a bunch of the boys after most of the meat has been cut. Some of the better cuts of meat are being cooked right now to be eaten immediately.

Some of the meat in bowls. The sandals are my little brothers. If you look closely, you can see 2 eyes in the bowl on the right…

The Diaw family – Kine (aka Kate), Sekh Ohmar, Suckeye, Moussa, Papa Amadou, and me, Ndeye
This is Senegal’s version of family Christmas photos – it’s family Tabaski photos instead :)

Kate and I with Yassa, a terrific young woman who is the vice president of the girls group I work with

Kate and I with Tomsir, a teenage talibe that Kate started teaching English to, and I am continuing to do so

My friend Saxrit (with a sucker in his mouth, and wearing an Akon belt!) and I

Kate and I with a friend and her son – isn’t he so cute?!? Kate and I are showing off our newly-braided hair in this picture instead of wearing our head wraps.

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