Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fulbright Blog - Second Eid
Place: Dhaka

Date: January 1, 2007

Today is the second Eid holiday, Eid-ul-Azha. This day is to celebrate Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismael to God. It is celebrated 70 days after Ramadan, after the Hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim is required to make at least once in their life.) On this day wealthy Bangladeshi families sacrifice an animal and donate at least 1/3 of the meat to the poor. The wealthier the family, the larger the animal - cows and goats are the most common. In the week leading up to Eid cows and goats of all shapes and sizes can be seen roaming the city. Many of the animals are decorated with bright paper garlands.

As with the first Eid holiday, people dress in their finest clothes and visit their friends and family to partake in a large feast together. The meat from the feast comes from the sacrificed animal. Again I was invited to share Eid with Shefali's family and again the food was fantastic! (I took a picture and will try to post it later.)

Shefali bought a cow and it stayed in the area normally reserved for the car the day before Eid. I felt so sad every time I passed it and I would always give it a pat on the head. Many people in Shefali's family became attached to the cow too. The animal must be slaughtered by a priest, and apparently one comes to your house to complete the sacrifice. I chose not to watch. In fact, I would not even go downstairs until Shefali told me that everything that resembled a cow was gone. Every thirty minutes or so she would go downstairs and check. When she came back she would say "The head is still there," or "The legs are still there". One time when I asked if it was OK she said, "yes" and then I asked if there were still bones and she said, "yes" so I told her I refused to go down until they were gone. When all pieces that resembled the cow were gone I did go downstairs to watch four professional butchers finish dissecting the meat. They were separating it into piles. The family keeps one third, one third goes to friends, and the remaining third goes to the poor. Usually Shefali goes to her home village for this Eid holiday so that she can share her meat there, but this year her parents were not well enough to travel. Instead, she sent one of her brothers to the village after the sacrifice to hand out the meat.

I have been told that most expats leave the city for this particular holiday because of the smell. Because the weather was so cold this year, however, the smell was not really that bad. It just had a bad odor in the house for the first hour after the sacrifice. The only other thing that I personally did not like was that I could accidentally turn a corner and see a cow being butchered. Whenever that happened I just quickly turned my head and walked the other way. It is not a cultural judgement, I just don't think that my stomach could handle the sight...

Photos from Eid day:


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