Sacrifice Holiday

  • Published
  • By Tanju Varlikli
  • 425th Air Base Squadron

Rooted in the story of Abraham, who nearly sacrificed his son Isaac, the Sacrifice Holiday is one of Islam’s biggest observances. According to Muslim belief, God halted Abraham’s hand and told him to sacrifice a ram as a substitute. Muslims practice this observance from Aug. 11 to Aug. 14. This is the second of two major Muslim holidays celebrated at this time of the year. The first, the “Sugar Holiday” or the “Feast of Sugar,” follows the month of Ramazan and lasts three days.

Every Muslim who is not in debt and can afford to buy a sheep must sacrifice one. If he or she chooses not to perform the sacrifice, the Muslim must practice alms giving instead. The sheep is bought a few days earlier and fed properly. In the past, early in the morning of the Sacrifice Holiday after the father returned home from the mosque, the family would get together in the yard of the house. If there was no butcher around, the oldest male member of the family, who was capable of performing the sacrifice properly, started the ceremony.

People today may buy their sheep from road side stands and sacrifice them at designated areas announced by municipalities. Individuals will see a lot of people selling sheep and cattle at the stands prior to and through the sacrifice holiday – especially on the day of ‘Arife’ and the first day of the Sacrifice Holiday. Signs will advertise “Kuzu Var, Koç Var” (We have sheep, we have ram) on the sides of the roads.

Sheep vendors will take people to the designated areas where sheep are sold and sacrificed. Butchers will be there to complete the sacrifice if desired.

The first day of the upcoming holiday is spent sacrificing sheep, distributing the pieces to the poor and friends, as well as cooking the evening meal.

Social customs are much the same as the Sugar Holiday. During the four-day religious holiday, banks and offices are closed. For the children, the best part is the candies and cookies that are so much part of the Sacrifice Holiday as observed in Sugar Holiday. Everybody wakes up early, about an hour before the morning prayer. The father dresses up and goes to the mosque for a special prayer session attended only by men. When the call of müezzin is heard from the mosque’s minaret, the faithful spread prayer mats and pray wherever the individuals may be.

In the meantime, the mother and children all get prepared and wait for the father’s return. This is when everyone congratulates each other and they exchange gifts. The children kiss the hands of the parents and the parents kiss the children on both cheeks, and they all unwrap their gifts and eat breakfast.

Most families visit close friends or relatives who are buried in the cemetery, usually a day before the holiday begins, which is Aug. 10 this year. This day is called “Arife” (Ah-ree-feih). If cemeteries are visited on  the first day of the Sacrifice Holiday instead of Arife, then a visit to family elders is in order to wish them a happy Bayram and say “İyi Bayramlar” (E-yee Bai-rahm-lahr).

Close relatives or friends are invited either for lunch or dinner. These exchange visits happen throughout the four days; however, these visits are short, about half an hour or less.

Maids, street cleaners and doormen (kapıcı) are traditionally given small gifts such as a box of candy with some money. Small children who come to visit are given money.

It is customary for Americans to visit Turkish friends and take a box of candy, chocolate, baklava or something else depending on the relationship.