Arguably the biggest Muslim holiday, Tabaski, fell a week before Thanksgiving this year, on November 17, 2010, though we continued to celebrate it for several days after that. Since I had been in Kaymor last year for Tabaski, I was more prepared for it this year: I was ready for the blood and guts that accompany the sheep slaughter (since that is really what it is), I was ready to hold the raw meat while my host mom and aunts hacked it to pieces (sometimes more gently, simply using a knife, other times much more dramatically, with a machete), I was ready to eat oily sheep for days on end (even though I was ready for this, I can’t say I really enjoyed it…), and I was ready with my fancy new Tabaski outfit to wear (after I had scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed to get the sheep guts smell off my hands) when we (quite literally) paraded around Kaymor, greeting everyone with the traditional Tabaski greeting/prayer (“Forgive me.” “I forgive you. Forgive me.” “I forgive you. May God give us peace and allow us to be together next year.” Etc. etc.).
The first day of our Tabaski celebrations involved basic prepping for the day, which meant that I helped my host mom sweep the compound. Since it was a special occasion, we had to be particularly meticulous, so it took longer than normal and I was hot and dusty by the time we were done. I’ll never get over how women here can stand sweeping bent over with their faces right next to the ground so the majority if what they’re inhaling isn’t air but rather dust. After that, we prepped for cooking lunch, which involved cutting onions and potatoes in our hands rather than on a cutting board, which I’ve mentioned before is a tricky skill to master. During this time the men gathered all the sheep and slaughtered them one by one. In general, the head of a household is supposed to purchase a sheep to kill for Tabaski, so we had a lot of sheep since each of my 5 uncles (and host dad) who live in Kaymor (with their wives and children) had a sheep, plus each of my 3 uncles who came back to Kaymor for Tabaski (with their wives and children, if they have them) also had a sheep. As you can tell from the pictures below, it was quite a process, which the kids enjoyed watching.