Feast of Sacrifice

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

If you see herds of sheep in the streets of villages, towns, and cities of Turkey, don’t worry. It is a sign that the Muslim world is getting prepared to celebrate Eedu-l-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, which  falls on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar.  

Feast of Sacrifice, which lasts four and a half days, is the longest religious holiday.

The festival of sacrifice is called Kurban Bayrami in Turkish. This year it starts at noon on Thursday, Aug. 31, and lasts four and a half days. Religious dates are determined by the lunar calendar, therefore festivals are observed 10 to 11 days earlier every year. 

On the first day of the festival, Sept. 1, thousands of sheep, goats and calves will be slaughtered by Turkish citizens celebrating Kurban Bayrami.

The sacrificed animal should be at least 1 year old and in good  health. You can see sheep sacrificed in all kinds of places: gardens, driveways, backyards and streets. This is especially true during the first day of the festival. You can also see animals sacrificed on the second and third day of the festival.

The government put a ban on killing the animals in public and unhealthy environments. Almost every city designates a central location with professional butchers to conduct the butchering for the beleivers, but still many people follow the traditional way and kill their animal anywhere.

The sacrifice is only a symbol, it’s not the meat or blood that pleases God. It’s the expression of thankfulness to Him, and the affirmation of faith in Him.

According to Muslims, this event started with the prophet Abraham, when he was ordered to offer his son, in sacrifice. An order which Abraham and his son were ready to obey unquestioningly.

The sons life was spared and ransomed by a ram. The offering of the sacrifice has become an annual celebration to commemorate the occasion and thank God for his favors.

Meanwhile, about 3.5 million Muslims have started to flock from all over the world to Mecca to perform the pilgrimage called Hajj, which is the fifth pillar of Islam.

Hajj is obligatory at least once in a lifetime for every Muslim, male or female, in fairly good health, and is financially capable and secure. In fulfilling this service, Muslims express their devotion to Allah. The pilgrimage is an annual event and attended by Muslims from all over the world. They meet in one place, Mecca, and all are dressed in similar uniforms. There is no discrimination or preference between them; all are Allah’s creations.

Eed (short for Eedu-l-Adha) means recurring happiness or festivity, a day of peace and thanksgiving, a day of forgiveness and moral victory, a day of good harvest and remarkable achievements, and a day of festive remembrance.

The climax of Hajj is marked by offering a sacrifice, an obligation in the way of God, to celebrate the completition of this devotional course and feed the poor so that they may feel the universal joy of the festival.

This duty, sacrifying an animal to God, is not only undertaken by pilgrims but by all able Muslims in every corner of the globe.

On the festival’s first day, all family members wake up early to make their final preparations. Male members go to  mosque to perform the special Bayram Namazi (sacrifice festival prayer). The actual sacrifice begins after the men return from the mosque. The head of the family is expected to perform the sacrifice, but a butcher can also be used to perform the ritual on their behalf.

The animal is given water and salt, its eyes are wrapped with a clean rag, and it’s turned to face Mecca. Verses are recited from the Koran, the holy book of Islam, and then the animal’s throat is cut.

The meat is then divided into three portions—one is given to the poor, one to neighbors and relatives, and the third is kept for the household.

Another tradition is visiting the graves of deceased family members. That is, mostly, done one day prior the festival, therefore the cemeteries are very crowded on that day.

Friends, neighbors and relatives visit each other celebrating the festival. Traditionally, people offer cologne, candy and Turkish coffee during those visits. Children might be given pocket money as well. Kapicis (door keepers), maids and gardeners are also tipped during the festival.

In recent years, some Muslims have begun to make donations to charitable institutions instead of sacrificng animals. 

The government has announced Aug. 31, as a whole day of holiday instead of a half day. Feast of Sacrifice ends on Monday, Sept. 4.  The government merged Victory Day, Aug. 30, and Feast of Sacrifice by announcing Aug. 31, as a whole day of holiday instead of a half day. In addition, the government announced Aug. 28 and 29, to be holidays as well. Thus, with the addition of the weekend days of Aug. 26 and 27, the Turks will have a total of 10 days holiday, Aug. 26, thru Sept. 4.  

Bayraminiz Kutlu Olsun (Buy-rahm-ihn-is  Koot-lou  all-soon) or Iyi Bayramlar (ee buy-rahm-luhr) are the phrases you should use to celebrate your Muslim friends’ sacrifice festival.