The big holidays in America are still on their way, but in Morocco, we’re almost done. Yesterday, we celebrated Eid al Adha, the most important holiday in the Muslim world, Morocco included. Muslim holidays are all figured on the lunar calendar, which does not match up to the solar calendar. The lunar calendar (based on the moon) is about 10 days shorter than the solar calendar, so the time of the year for holidays based on these calendar changes by about 10 days each year. This in itself is hard for me to comprehend, because in America all holidays are set in stone and fall on the same (or really close to the same) each year. The thought that Eid al Adha can be in November this year, but in 10 years it will fall in August just isn’t exactly comprehensible in my super scheduled American mind, but so be it. Also, because the cycle of the moon is not exactly regular, we often don’t know the day of the holiday until a few days before the holiday itself. Again, to my super scheduled American mind, this is hard, but here it is no problem what so ever, so I guess it is a good way for me to learn to let go a little bit.
There are 2 big holidays or Eids in Morocco (and around the Muslim world). They are celebrated differently depending on which country, city, and family you are in, so what you will find here are just my outsider’s observations of how the people around me, including my husband’s family, celebrate these holidays.
The first Eid, Eid al Fitr, falls on the day after Ramadan is complete. (Ramadan is actually a month name in Arabic – like April or March would be for us in English.) The month of Ramadan includes fasting from sunup to sundown. Muslims do not eat, drink, or smoke during these hours. The evening hours of Ramadan in a Muslim country (or at least in Morocco) are filled with eating, walking, visiting etc. The day after Ramadan is complete is called Eid al Fitr, and includes visiting and eating. This is considered the smaller of the two Eids. On this day, we went to my father in law’s for a nice meal, but it was nothing huge.
The second Eid, Eid al Adha, happens after the annual Hajj pilgrimage, when Muslims are supposed to try to go to Mecca. It is a celebration to recognize the devotion of Abraham when asked to sacrifice his son. Because god is said to have given Abraham a sheep to sacrifice instead of his son, Muslims sacrifice a sheep on this day. In Morocco, each household tries to get a sheep and so the sheeps kind of overtake the city. You will see them everywhere, penned at markets and on people’s balconies. Our neighbors kept theirs in the swimming pool in their terrace. My father in law kept “ours” at a local pen, and then we retrieved him the day of Eid, in my brother in law’s trunk. Once our sheep was tied up in the garage, my father in law hired a butcher to come and slaughter him. (I am told that many people slaughter and clean their own sheep.) The many who butchered him said a prayer over the sheep and then cut his head off. He and his helper then proceeded to blow air in between the skin of the sheep (yes, with their mouths) in order to separate the skin from the meet, and cut the skin off of the sheep. The butcher also removed all the internal organs – heart, lungs, stomach, liver, etc. and hung the sheep from it’s feet in the garage. And yes, we then proceeded to eat the sheep. Actually, yesterday we only ate internal organs. Today, we ate some shoulder meat. I have a feeling we will be eating sheep for awhile actually – kind of like turkey on Thanksgiving.
The biggest culture shock for me about Eid al Adha has been the amount of sheep pieces everywhere. I mean it makes sense, that everyone is sacrificing a sheep so there will be sheep everywhere, but it’s slightly disturbing to the American sensibilities to drive down the road and see carts full of fresh sheep skin everywhere. Not to mention the sheep heads being barbequed on every street corner, or the guys using machetes trying to hammer the horns off. (Talking about machetes – it was quite interesting to watch the butchers with their machetes stand on the street corner waiting for people who needed their help in sacrifices.) I am glad to see all of the sheep being used, and to see the animals being treated and killed humanely. I know that all of the other animals we eat are killed in this same manner, but having it right in our face is a little bit of a culture shock moment.
In honor of Eid al Adha, everything (and I do mean everything) is closed, including my school – so I got two days off. My sons, who attend a Moroccan school, have the entire week of. So, it’s kind of like Christmas or Thanksgiving here, in the calm that settles over the city as people go to visit with family and enjoy some resting holiday time. When I return to school tomorrow, I will actually be teaching my students about Muslim holidays, as it is part of my Social Studies curriculum. If you want to know how that goes, check out my other blog – Raki’s Rad Resources.