Tobaski Feast Day (Eid Al Adha): A cultural sharing

One of my Peace Corps friends emailed me a couple days ago. He reminded me that today is Tobaski. That’s what this Muslim holiday is called in The Gambia. Perhaps you’ve heard it called Eid Al Adha–or just Eid. This is the day when Muslims celebrate when God told Abraham not to sacrifice Ismail (Issac)but a sheep instead.

Today every married male is supposed to kill a sheep if he can afford one, if not , than a goat, and if not that –a chicken. The food is cooked to be shared. A portion is to be given to poor people, meaning those without. A portion is shared with friends and family who stop by for a visit and a portion is kept for the family who bought the sheep. Most is given away. When the sheep is killed there is a blessing said to Allah (God).

The build up to this day is enormous. People get new outfits made, clean house, buy a sheep–if they can afford one, and gather coins to give out to children. One reason why the holiday feels so joyous is because the harvest is done, people have money, the mosquitos have largely disappeared and it’s not so hot during the day. It’s hot. Just not so hot.

During my first Tobaski in The Gambia, I must have traveled somewhere because I don’t have any recollection of what I did– By my second Tobaski, I stayed in my village to join in with my best friend, Fatou’s family celebration. I had a Grand Buba made (a traditional women’s outfit that used so much fabric I had a pair of pants and a shirt made out of it later) and gathered coins. I let my friend talk me into visiting various families and accepting money. Since I was a single woman, I was still eligible to receive money.

Okay, you can bet I balked at this one. The idea of taking money from the people whose lives I was there to help seemed not right. But my friend talked me into it saying that people would feel good if I participated. They’d be thrilled. They were thrilled and I had a blast. On this particular day I felt like I belonged–and the sheep tasted great.

About the money, I think in the end it amounted to about $1.20. I tried to give it to my friend, but she wouldn’t take it, so later on I bought something for us to share. The photo is of women in their finest. This isn’t my village, but it sure looks like it could be. Those trees in the background look like they are mango trees. This is not the time of year when they are ripe, though.