Thursday, 30 October 2014

Eid in Algeria - what's there to celebrate? Part Two

The one that got away!
I had to keep reminding myself why we had a sheep in our house in the first place, and no, it was not primarily for the wonderful roast meat dinners ahead.   I had heard the story over and over growing up, listening to it at mass on Sunday,  where God wanted to test His Prophet Abraham (May Allah’s peace be upon him)’s loyalty to and love for Him, and asked him to sacrifice his only son.  Islam gives far more details about the story than the Catholic Church did and, as with a lot of the stories the religions have in common there are fundamental differences.  Christians believe that he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, his wife’s Sarah’s son, while Islam says that it was his son Ismail with his wife Haajar as Sarah still didn’t have her son as yet at this time.  He told his son about the dream he had where he had been requested to do this act, and his son told him, more or less, that he had to do what Allah had ordered.  So, as they both made their way to the place where the sacrifice was to be performed, shaitaan (satan) came to Abraham, three times and tried his very level best to dissuade him from doing it, whereby Abraham picked up some stones and threw them at him.  This is remembered every year during the pilgrimage of Hajj when people stone the Jamaraat .  Just at the point that Abraham was about to slaughter his son Allah told him to slaughter a sheep instead, and this is why, if we can afford one, we slaughter a sheep on Eid day in memory and in awe of Abraham’s amazing obedience to his Creator, and as an inspiration to us to try to reach that level of deep faith and serenity.  So as I looked into the eyes of that first sheep in the days leading up to the day of Eid I thought of how Abraham must have felt having to sacrifice his SON, and I honestly felt a close affinity to this amazing man and, inspired by his faith, I could feel my own becoming stronger.  But that didn’t stop me from sitting on my bed at the actual time of the slaughter, sobbing along with one of my sons until the dreaded deed was done!

You can never get too much of a good thing
Leading up to that moment were weeks of dread – I dreaded having my in laws to stay over as that had never happened before, and I was anxious about how I was going to communicate with them  over such a long period of time.   I dreaded having to feed them all the day before Eid, Arafat, which is a day of fasting in case they didn’t like the food having not eaten all day.  I picked up on my husband’s nervousness about the actual slaughter itself and I was nervous for him!  I was worried about each of the children and how they would feel on the actual day of the slaughter.  I dreaded Eid day because I really didn’t know what to expect and I felt that, while everyone else would know exactly what to do, I would be totally useless.

My in-laws arrived on the day of Arafat….with their own food as they felt I had enough on my plate (pun my word!) without cooking, and we had a lovely evening together.  The slaughter, itself on Eid day, was quite quick and my husband was happy he had done it as humanely as possible.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, seemed to get in on the act of removing the skin and insides… in-laws and various neighbours all were on hand to give plenty of advice (Algerians LOVE giving advice!) and also practical help  and with our boys and men going back and forth also to the neighbours, we all felt it was very much a community event.

My sisters-in-law and my husband’s niece set to cleaning out the insides and burning the hair off the head and feet, and my children watched and helped whenever they could.  As for me I found I excelled in the role as ‘gofer’  - I spent a lot of time up and down, back and forth looking for basins, sharp knives, scissors etc. etc.  I had also decided to roast a chicken because there isn’t much from which to make a meal on the day of the actual slaughter – the liver, heart and kidneys wouldn’t make much of a meal for 11 people and it’s very hungry work.  I served the chicken with mashed potato, carrots, peas and, of course, gravy, and my husband’s nephew exclaimed, when he sat down, ‘what exactly did we just slaughter – a sheep or a chicken?’  In addition I also cooked the innards with onion and garlic and everyone was very happy with the meal….which made me happy and feeling useful Alhamduliah!

By the time we had sat down to dinner everything had been done that could be done with the carcass, and it was hanging up in our courtyard with all the floor washed and scrubbed and all the rubbish bagged, so much so that only for the hanging carcass you would never know we had a live sheep in our courtyard just that morning.  I really am in awe at how efficient Algerians can be at times like this mashaAllah.

Everyone lay down for a siesta after lunch and prayer, and then we had coffee and cakes, after which my in-laws left.  Then my children, husband and I settled down to watch a film and munch away on all sorts of goodies, drink gazous (a hyped-up version of Cola or Pepsi!) and juice, and we all went to bed feeling very happy and, as if we had had a really lovely day.  And I wondered why, and not for the first time, I always got myself worked up over things and ALWAYS came up with the worst possible scenarios.
Chocolate all the way!

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