Last year at this time I was just settling into life in a Muslim home and all the traditions that go with it. One of those is Kurban Bajram which occurs 70 days after Ramazan. Kurban Bajram is the Balkans’ name for the celebration of Eid al-Kabir (which means “the big celebration”) and it is the most important holiday in Islam. This holiday takes place every year at the end of Hajj. It’s on the 10th of the month of Dhu al-Hijja, the last of the Islamic calendar, after Waqfat Arafat, or the descent of Mount Arafat.This celebration represents a submission to Allah and commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham) obedience to Allah, symbolized by the incident in which he prepares to sacrifice his own son Ismael, at God’s command, in order to show his love and faith. At the last moment Allah sends a ram with the archangel Gabriel to replace the child as a sacrificial offering. In memory of Ibrahim’s total submission to God, Muslim families sacrifice a ram or a sheep, and sometimes other animals such as cows or goats. They are killed lying on the left flank with their head facing Mecca, after a prayer and an Eid/Bajram sermon.
Yes, I live in a rural Muslim village but I never hear cows in the village. I know there are a few but not close to the house. This morning I heard a cow. When I asked Nazifete about it, she made a slashing symbol across her throat and I knew that this poor cow is slated for slaughter tomorrow morning. Stacie filmed the slaughter last year. I don’t think I will do that. I suspect that the hoja of the mosque will be the one saying the payers and a sermon. The meat is supposed to be given to the poor and destitute. And this is when the faithful make their yearly donation to the mosque–2.5% of their annual wages. (Sure better than the “tithe” expected by mainline churches.) It is a feast of sacrifice–giving to those who are in need.
But oh the preparations. The house is cleaned until it sparkles from top to bottom. Windows, floors, carpets, furniture–everything. Some of the faithful are fasting today. And new clothes are purchased to be worn and everyone will be dressed up tomorrow for visits–mysafir. That will go on all day. Coffee, tea, juice and food will be served non-stop. Bread has been baking since early today. I think they are on their fourth or fifth pan of rolls. The rolls are the size of small loaves of bread–much bigger than a hamburger bun. There is also a very big pan of baklava! Cannot wait for that! And I suspect there will be tres leches cake. And, of course, chocolate every where you look.
School is out for the holiday and as students left today, they all said “Urime bajrami”–Happy Bajram. They are very excited about it. Unfortunately for me, I still have to work. I’m scheduled to go to Tetovo to talk to the new volunteers about the joys and challenges of being an older volunteer. I hope to get home at a decent time for enjoying food and friends. I really am part of this family and I don’t want to miss this Bajram celebration. They only have two celebrations a year and I missed the one at the end of Ramazan. I surely won’t miss it next year. How many opportunities does one get to experience the culture up close and personal?
The week leading up to this has been hectic and informative. We had a visitor who is the spouse of a dignitary visiting Macedonia. She wanted to see PC life up close and personal. So they scheduled a visit to my school and we expanded it to coffee at my house. Unfortunately, they were way off schedule so it really was not a very long visit in either place. However, I did find out when Rexhpi was talking to my guests about the school that the school buses (more like big vans) have been provided by the municipality because over the years 16 students had been killed walking along the road. None have been killed since they got the vans. Hmmmm, maybe walking to school isn’t such a great idea.