Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Big Holiday!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Except, in Morocco, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. However, they do have a holiday that is sort of similar and happened to fall on the same weekend as Thanksgiving in America. It’s called Laaid Kbir (literally, “Big Holiday”) and families travel from all over to be together to have a big feast. Sound familiar? Well, it is, sort of, except that instead of eating turkey, each family saves money all year to buy as big of a ram as they can afford. In the week or so before Laaid, you see people walking around with big sheep all over the place. We happened to be traveling through Rabat and Marrakech, so it was pretty funny to see people riding motorcycles with sheep in big, modern cities. We saw them waiting at lights to cross the street with all the normal people, in the trunks of taxis, and on top of transit vans. It was pretty amusing. After all these sheep get to their final destinations, they wait in anticipation for the big day. After the king has killed his sheep on national television, everyone in the neighborhood brings their sheep out into a communal area and proceeds to slit its throat and skin and gut it. Meanwhile, everyone is out and about in their fanciest new clothes greeting, kissing, and talking to each other. It’s pretty festive.

The rest of the day is spent cutting and preparing the meat. I didn’t realize until now how much meat a whole ram can yield. It is a lot. Sean and I and everyone else in Morocco have been eating delicious sheep kebabs for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner for about a week now. There are other less savory parts of the sheep to eat as well. Actually, I say less savory because I don’t find the head and intestines to be very good, but Moroccans consider them the best part. I am developing a taste for organ and gristle kebabs, though. Even after all this, there is still a lot of meat left over. What is left after a week or so is dried and turned into a form of jerky. I haven’t had the pleasure of trying that yet, but from what I’ve heard, it is the best part. Moroccans sure do love their meat!

Laaid Kbir is not just a Moroccan holiday; it is a Muslim holiday. The whole thing with the ram is done in remembrance of when Allah (God) told Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his only son to prove his devotion. At the last minute, Allah told Ibrahim to sacrifice a nearby ram instead. This and many other stories are shared between the Judaic, Christian, and Islamic faiths. It’s pretty interesting, actually. Of course there are definite notable differences, but I am really grateful for the opportunity to understand another culture and another faith so thoroughly, especially one that is so misunderstood by a lot of the Western world.