The alternate title for this blog entry was, "A Sad Day For Goats." I finally figured out why there are goats everywhere in this city, or at least why there WERE goats every where in this city...
Wednesday was Tabaski, which is the Muslim equivalent of Thanksgiving and a time of great feasts. I think I have found the secret to world peace: declare every day a holiday to be celebrated with a great feast. The streets were mostly barren here on Wednesday - with some carryover celebration into Thursday. Heck, many people took Friday off also.
With the holiday, the head of the family must get a ram to feed his family. While the cost of a ram is reasonable (maybe 60,000 CFA, or $120), you may remember wages of many workers here are as little as 50,000 to 60,000 per month so it is quite normal for the head of household to save for several months to be able to buy this ram. It is also quite normal in Senegal for the head of household to have more than one wife, which means that a man could literally save up for the entire year to provide both of his wives with a traditional feast.
This is probably a subject for a different blog entry, but who would want two wives, anyway? The wives can't be too happy ("Honey, I think I'll be sleeping with you-know-who tonight") which obviously must lead to twice as much nagging for the man. But back to our regularly scheduled broadcast:
For Thanksgiving, we Americans have mostly chosen the humane solution for feasting which is the drive down to the local supermarket to pick up our feast already decapitated, plucked and with a packet of giblets inserted into its cavity that can be easily thrown away (with thanks to the folks at Plainville Turkey Farm for doing all the decapitating for us!).
For Tabaski, the head of household is expected to bring home a real, live ram. A real, live ram tied up to a post right under my bedroom window for the entire night before the feast. A real, live ram that bleats all night long while tied up to a post under my bedroom window for the entire night before the feast. Frankly, I wish they would learn to buy their meat at the store, but this holiday is all about sacrifice...
I wandered through several different neighborhoods on Tabaski to see some of the sacrificing. The man is in charge of slitting the throat of the ram (after much prayer and thanks, of course) and then the animal is carved up on premise. I saw buckets overflowing with goat parts and not a single piece goes to waste. It's pretty disconcerting to see a bucket with goat intestines and eyeballs sloshing around, and I'm not sure what one guy was trying to do with the skull (although he was holding his machete in an upright, Samurai position as I walked past), but give these people credit in the "waste not, want not" department.
The holiday is celebrated because the Bible says Abraham was supposed to sacrifice his only son but instead of a son, God came down and provided a sheep instead. Or a goat, I guess, depending on the region you live. I say the Bible, but this is where it gets a little tricky, because the Muslims have a different Bible called the Koran that says the same thing. The only difference is that Abraham's only son is two different people because Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael because Abraham had two wives (at the time anyway) although he cast out one wife with the son Ishmael and kept the other Isaac, although he didn't really keep either one because God said he had to sacrifice "the son he loved", which the Muslims say must have been Ishmael and the Jews say must have been Isaac because he had already cast out Ishmael even though the Bible also says Abraham only has one son. So, Ishmael is the father of the Muslims and Isaac is the father of the Jews although Isaac and Jesus pretty much led the same exact life (only begotten son, took a donkey up a hill, son carried the wood to sacrifice himself on his back, etc.), so I guess Isaac is the father of the Christians, but Abraham was the real father of everyone - or so it seems - because he got married again and had lots more children and lived to be 137 years old.
I'll put my views on religion aside for a moment, but the fact that people want to kill each other over the interpretation of a book that has so many tall tales and inconsistencies makes me wonder if maybe we'd be a whole lot further along if God had spared the ram and actually taken the son.
Tens of thousands of goats in Senegal would surely have agreed.