Today is the eve of Kurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha), another Turkish holiday. It begins on Sunday and ends Wednesday. It’s another one of the Muslim “biggies”. The date of the holiday changes from year to year according to the Islamic calendar.
I have mixed feelings about this holiday. The good side is that everyone has a holiday from work. Family and friends visit each other. It is also about sharing with the poor – which is great.
The downside is the slaughtering of animals in the name of religion. Let me take a step back and give you a little history.
Kurban is the “Festival of Sacrifice” which commemorates the willingness of the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (Isma’il) as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a ram to sacrifice instead. You can read the entire history here.
In Turkey, the holiday is celebrated by slaughtering sheep and cows. One can actually see this being done in villages and on the edges of the cities. My husband tells me that there was a time that one could see blood pouring through the streets everywhere in Turkey.
Now, the slaughter is not as apparent. In the cities, families pay for a butcher to do the slaughtering. The tradition is that the family keeps 1/3 of the meat, 1/3 goes to relatives and friends, and 1/3 goes to the poor.
So I like having another long holiday. And I love the idea of giving to the poor. But even though I am clearly not a vegetarian, and have spent some time out in the woods hunting, slaughtering animals to honor God is rather creepy to me.
Last year we received beef from two family members. That was nice, but it more than filled my freezer and it forced me to eat beef more often than I wanted. (Which is rough considering I have to keep my girly figure and all.)
The one real “beef” I have with receiving so much beef is that butchers just chop the meat into chunks. So you never know what you are getting. One family member knows that I like thick steaks, so she had some larger chunks cut for me, but it doesn’t really work that way. You see, filet mignon, New York Strip, porterhouse, and flank steak, for example, come from specific parts of the cow. I never know whether it’s a piece that needs to be slow cooked or one that should be done quickly. I keep thinking that one day I will walk into a butcher shop with a picture like the one below, point, and beg.
The other thing about Kurban Bayram, and some of the other holidays here in Turkey, is that they are celebrated by all, just like Christmas and Easter are in the States. Kurban is a religious holiday. But everyone celebrates it here, even those who claim to be atheist and even those who are Muslim, but don’t practice it. While I love that my Jewish friends often celebrate Christmas, it sometimes gets on my nerves that the holidays are so commercial. And I am somewhat full of it, because it bothers me more that Atheists celebrate it. I mean, I always wanted to be invited to a Jewish holiday celebration. As they share in my holidays, I also want to share in theirs! But atheists celebrating it, somehow makes it much more commercial in my mind. And although I don’t practice in all of the ways required by the Church, I am faithful in my way, as most of us are.
The truth is, I have lots of atheist friends, and lots of Jewish friends, and a few Buddhists too, in addition to my Christian and Muslim friends. So I should probably stop writing here. Hopefully, my friends will get what I’m trying to say; not judging – just putting my feelings out there. And frankly, I seem to be all over the place with one. So my apologies for such an unwieldy read.
Soon after we arrived in Turkey we experienced our first Kurban Bayram. The daughter of our caretaker at the time knocked on the door and handed me a plastic bag full of bloody bones. I guess it was her way of welcoming us. It was quite touching but we really didn’t know what to do with them! I agree with your points about the commercialisation of major religious festivals. As an atheist, I tend to ignore the religious aspects and enjoy the time out with family and friends, particularly at Christmas.
About ten years ago I got so grossed out by the over-commercialization of Christmas in the US that I started celebrating the Winter Solstice instead. I like to have people over for a fondue dinner and convivial talk.
The essential elements of the celebration for me are simple:
– Green and white pillar candles
– Fire (Took this on the road one time and booked a suite with a fireplace)
– Ice cream
– Reflection about the past year and the upcoming year
Now Christmas for me is a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Christ.