Tabaski: Faith, Forgiveness, and a Feast

The months before the Tabaski holiday in early October, the cities of Senegal are bleating with sheep. When travelling, it is not uncommon to see sheep strapped to the top of station wagons, buses, horse carts, or even stuffed in a sack, neck poking out, and seated on a moto, eyeing passing cars with cool disdain. Tabaski celebrates the inveterate faith of Ibrahima who was commanded by God to sacrifice his promised son, Ishmael. It is said that before the fatal blow, God recognized and rewarded Ibrahima’s faith and replaced Ishmael with a sheep, which is why a sheep is traditionally killed and eaten on Tabaski. Tabaski morning, families dress up in their newly tailored outfits and attend mosque for special prayers delivered by the Imam. After the service, people ask forgiveness from their neighbors and give blessings for the upcoming year. The head of the family then brings out the sheep to be slaughtered and processed in accordance with halal practices. Many dishes are prepared and sent out to relatives, friends, and those unable to afford a sheep. Later on in the evening, the children roam around the village asking forgiveness and coins. Below are photos from my family’s Tabaski.

The head of the household, Modu Ndiaye, and nephew, Bobacar Ndiaye, bring out the Tabaski sheep for slaughter.

The head of the household, Modu Ndiaye, and nephew, Bobacar Ndiaye, bring out the Tabaski sheep for slaughter.

The sheep is slaughtered in the halal fashion. The animal is blessed, its throat is slit with a sharp knife, careful as not to sever the spinal cord, and the blood is drained.

The sheep is slaughtered in the halal fashion. The animal is blessed, its throat is slit with a sharp knife, careful as not to sever the spinal cord, and the blood is drained.

Now our family's turn. We weren't able to afford a sheep this Tabaski, but a goat will suffice.

Now our family’s turn. We weren’t able to afford a sheep this Tabaski, but a goat will suffice.

The slaughtered goat and sheep. Or as my mom used to say while passing roadkill, 'oh they're just sleeping'.

The slaughtered goat and sheep. Or as my mom used to say while passing roadkill, ‘oh they’re just sleeping’.

The blood is let into a hole and left unburied for three days. Gris-gris and traditional medicines are sometimes dipped into the blood to increase their potency.

The blood is let into a hole and left unburied for three days. Gris-gris and traditional medicines are sometimes dipped into the blood to increase their potency.

My host father, Ba Modu Ndiaye (wearing white cap), and nephews, Alieu Ndiaye and  Samba Ndiaye, preparing the goat. The goat is skinned, gutted, and butchered. The children like to keep the hide to stretch over empty metal pots to make drums.

My host father, Ba Modu Ndiaye (wearing white cap), and nephews, Alieu Ndiaye and Samba Ndiaye, preparing the goat. The goat is skinned, gutted, and butchered. The children like to keep the hide to stretch over empty metal pots to make drums.

The sheep skinned and gutted.

The sheep skinned and gutted.

My host mother, Ya Fatou Saar, and sister, Mamjaara Ndiaye, hard at work in the kitchen. Tabaski staples are macaroni, potatoes, and onions.

My host mother, Ya Fatou Saar (right), and sister, Mamjaara Ndiaye (facing camera), hard at work in the kitchen. Tabaski staples are macaroni, potatoes, and onions.

Cooking up some french fries. In the background, mischievous chickens enjoying a pot of broth.

Cooking up some french fries. In the background, mischievous chickens enjoying a pot of broth.

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The finished product! Sheep and goat meat with macaroni, fries, chopped onions, and dense village bread. Tabaski is a marathon, not a sprint. It's  custom to eat at the neighbors and have bowls of food sent over, so it's all about pacing yourself. Come and eat!

The finished product! Sheep and goat meat with macaroni, fries, chopped onions, and dense village bread. Tabaski is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s custom to eat at the neighbors and have bowls of food sent over, so it’s all about pacing yourself. Come and eat!

Baby Cherkh Diouf eating a fry. Don't bother me, I'm eating.

Baby Cherkh Diouf eating a fry. Don’t bother me, I’m eating.

Nuffie Satou Ndiaye sharing bread and sauce with Cherkh.

Nuffie Satou Ndiaye sharing bread and sauce with Cherkh.

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Top: Roakhide with baby Fatou (my host mother's namesake) in their Tabaski outfits. Middle: My nieces Hadioum, Fallie, Ndeye-Awa, and Kumba. Bottom:  The girls showing off their Tabaski loot.

Top: Roakhide with baby Fatou (my host mother’s namesake) in their Tabaski outfits. Right: My nieces Hadioum, Fallie, Ndeye-Awa, and Kumba.
Bottom: The girls showing off their Tabaski loot.

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One comment on “Tabaski: Faith, Forgiveness, and a Feast

  1. Mom says:

    I guess I wont be able to tell you that the goat and Mary’s Little Lamb are just sleeping! Love you – Mom

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