Festival of Sacrifice to be celebrated throughout Turkey

  • Published
  • By Mehmet Birbiri
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Muslims throughout the world will celebrate the Festival of Sacrifice Nov. 15-19, by sacrificing millions of sheep, goats and calves as an expression of thankfulness and an affirmation of faith.

The Festival of Sacrifice is called Kurban Bayrami in Turkish. This year it starts at noon, Nov. 15, and lasts four and a half days.

The most notable event of this holiday is sacrificing an animal to Allah. In Turkey, sheep are usually sacrificed.

In Islamic tradition, this historic event started when the prophet Abraham was ordered to prepare his son Ismael as a sacrifice, an order which Abraham and his son unquestioningly obeyed. But, Ismael's 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.

This is also the time of year when Muslems go to Mecca and other holy sites in Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage known as the hajj. The climax of the hajj is marked by offering a sacrifice to celebrate the completion of this devotional journey and by feeding the poor so they may feel the universal joy of the festival.

The lunar calendar determines religious dates for Islam, which explains why the festivals are observed 10 to 11 days earlier every year. The Festival of Sacrifce falls on the 10th day of the last month of the lunar calendar and symbolizes recurring happiness.

The first day is a day of peace and thanksgiving, of forgiveness and moral victory, of good harvest and remarkable achivements and of festive rememberance.

On the first day, everyone wakes up early to make their final preparations. Male family members go to the mosque to perform the special Bayram Namazi--festival prayer--with the men of the community.

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 authorized to do the butchering.

The sacrificed animal should be at least one year old and healthy. While wealthy people can sacrifice more than one animal, up to seven people can get together to sacrifice a calf.

The animal is given water and salt, its eyes are wrapped with a clean rag and it is turned to face Mecca. The head of the family recites some verses from the Koran, the holy book of the Muslems, and cuts the animal's throat.

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

Although city officials designate certain areas for sacrifices and state that violaters will be fined, people sacrifce sheep everywhere--in gardens, driveways, backyards and streets. This is especially true during the first full day of the holiday, Nov. 16. People may also see animals sacrificed Nov. 17 and 18.

After the sacrificing and butchering is completed, everybody dresses in their finest clothes and visits friends, neighbors and other family members. They mail postcards and make phone calls to those who cannot be visited.

During the festival, it is customary to tip maids, gardeners, apartment doormen (kapici) and garbage collectors.

The shops at "the Alley" will be closed on the first day of the festival, Tuesday, Nov. 16, but most will be open during the rest of the festival days. Government offices, schools and most private establishments will be closed for nine days, Nov. 13-21.