|Cakes left over from a wedding and gifted to us - LOVE the tajine dish!|
Every Eid we have had since we moved to Algeria has been different, and what has made each one unique is the variation of people with whom we have celebrated - different in-laws each time, but this year Eid Al Adha was markedly different in that we celebrated it as a family on our own. This wasn’t what we had planned, but then man plans and Allah is the Best of Planners.
I was really looking forward to a lovely relaxing Eid al Adha (or as they call it here in Algeria – Eid Al Kabeer, the Big Eid). We didn’t have enough money to buy a sheep so we didn’t have all that work to prepare for, and instead I was looking forward to spending a nice relaxing morning with the boys doing the rounds of the neighbours to help out if necessary, with me sitting drinking coffee and reading, and then a trip into my mother-in-law for a dinner not cooked by me (what a treat!), and then back home for a lovely relaxing evening with the family. What could go wrong????
Two days before Eid my husband received a call from a friend who, when he found out in the course of conversation that we were not having a sheep this year, told my husband to go to a particular place and get a sheep for which payment was already made. My husband didn’t understand what exactly he was talking about but decided to go and find out anyway. And….what was my reaction to this unexpected gift??? Gratitude? Amazement at another’s kindness? Praise to Allah for His mercy on us???? Erm…….no….not a bit of it. Yours Truly’s reaction was to feel sick to the pit of my stomach as I watched my vision of the Perfect Eid slowly fade away, and instead be replaced by one of work, blood, gore, poo (the sheep’s that is I hasten to add!)and lots and lots of water and cleaning. ‘What’s the point – it’s not going to be ‘our’ sheep anyway as we didn’t buy it so why bother with all the work when we won’t get the blessing of it’ and on and on I went….as only I can do. My husband, to give him his due, didn’t argue, just sympathised with me but nevertheless went on his merry way to seek out this sheep, the downfall of my Perfect Eid.
We had a very special guest (happy to say a two legged one)that day who we took, along with her children, to the beach for afternoon chocolate cake and doughnuts in the beautiful autumnal sunshine. We returned to find the sheep happily ensconced in our front courtyard munching away…….on my fledgling olive tree and making short work of it and my other plants. I so wanted to slaughter it there and then…..and my husband along with it, but refrained and instead made do with getting them to tie it up away from what was left of my plants.
This sheep was a quiet, placid, well behaved one as sheep go – it didn’t strain at its restraints or bleat all night long, but just happily accepted its fate, sitting in straw in the corner under a window and munched away – the noise is very evocative of children munching on crunchy breakfast cereal....chomp, chomp, chomp.
|Love this drive into my in-laws. Often I can't believe I actually LIVE here!|
Eid day came and, after the prayer, once the children had fortified themselves with homemade chocolate cake and biscuits it was all hands on deck. My husband, following the Sunnah didn’t want anything to eat or drink until he had slaughtered the sheep, which he did with his customary care and kindness – stroking it and calming it and not letting it see the knife, not even for a second and, once he had done the deed everyone had their part to play. One kept the knives sharp with our electric knife sharpener, another poked a hole under the skin and started to blow it up so that it could be removed easily, another was cleaning up the blood from the slaughter, and then it was a group effort to remove the skin with everyone joining in….everyone except me.
First I cleaned up the front courtyard where the sheep had been sleeping and then hosed it down and left it to dry. As I did so I could hear all the arguing, exclaiming and bursts of laughter from the central courtyard and I felt so grateful for this blessing, because even though it didn’t feel like a celebration of the kind to which I was accustomed in my childhood….you know, the kind with presents, lovely new clothes, decorations, etc. it felt like it in a new, different way, where everyone pulled together to get the job done and had fun in doing so. Some families play board or card games…we…..slaughter and cut up a sheep. In the end the same result…..quality family time together and at least we get to eat the results Alhamdulilah.
Then I was busy preparing food in the form of chicken roasting in the oven, chips, salad, to go with the liver, heart and other innards which would be fried up and served on a bed of fried onions along with lovely crusty French baguettes. The children commented on each organ as it was removed and, as I felt them, still warm, in my hands I felt a deep gratitude to Allah, first for this wonderful food, and then to the sheep who had been sacrificed in the most humane way possible, so that we could have this wonderful meal Alhamdulilah. I also said a lot of ‘astaghfirAllah’s for my initial reaction to Allah’s risq and blessing to us.
Once my boys and my husband had finished with our sheep they went across the road to help the neighbour with his one. He had a new son-in-law who was willing to do the job, but our neighbour insisted that it wasn’t Eid if my husband and boys were not involved so they waited until they were free. So sweet especially considering that, 11 y ears ago, they didn’t know we existed. Just goes to show you don’t have to live a lifetime on the same street to become good neighbours Alhamdulilah.
And perhaps the one thing that cast a special glow over the whole day was the simple but moving reason we received a ‘free’ sheep in the first place - A man gave away 20 sheep in memory of his father who had passed away. We don’t know this man, or who his father was but, in an age where everywhere you look, newspaper and TV news headlines, Facebook updates etc. there is so much negativity, Allah with this one simple act, blessed us with the knowledge and hope that there is always more good than bad in this world. Alhamdulilah.