The Tabaski Celebration in Senegal
What is Tabaski?
If you’re travelling to Senegal in the month of July, you will most probably come to hear of the celebration of ‘Tabaski’. Tabaski is an Islamic national holiday in Senegal and celebrates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice Ismael, his son, Allah. The story of Ibrahim in the Quran is a striking passage of a loving father ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for his God. About to end the life of his first born son, Allah stopped him just in time and told him to sacrifice a ram instead. Abraham was then ordered to distribute parts of the ram’s meat to friends and family as an act of obedience.
This celebration is known by the name of Eid al-Adha and translates literally to “Feast Of The Sacrifice”. It’s also known by a number of other names including Bakra Eid, Bakrid, Eid-e-Ghorban, and Hari Raya Hajo. Although Eid al-Adha is celebrated all over the world, in Senegal it’s known as Tabaski.
When is the Tabaski celebration in Senegal?
The Tabaski holiday begins on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah, which is the twelfth month on the lunar Islamic calendar. Because this calendar is based on lunar movements and not on a solar arrangement like the Gregorian calendar, the date of this holiday changes from year to year. This year the Tabaski celebration in Senegal falls on 10 July 2022.
How do Muslims celebrate Tabaski?
This is a four-day Islamic commemoration begins with sunrise prayers at local mosques. Families then prepare to slaughter a ram in a ritual sacrifice. Most citizens in Senegal are Muslim, and therefore a lot of people will be seen traveling to their home villages to have a feast with their families. Apart from the ram, various vegetables, sauces, and rice are usually included in the feast to compliment the main dish.
When the feast is complete, children will dress up and go house to house asking for pocket money or something of value from neighbors. People will also visit family and friends in the evening, wearing their best clothing and asking forgiveness from one another.
Tabaski for a non-Muslim
In a Western cultures the tradition to slaughter an animal at home may be considered a little too ruthless for most people’s taste, however it is meant as a beautiful and meaningful entreaty to a traditionally nonviolent religion. The theme is obedience to God, love, gratitude, compassion and forgiveness to one another. Consequently the sentiment associated with Tabaski is not too far from what you will experience during the Christian Christmas or even the American Thanksgiving.
It’s estimated that roughly 4-million animals are slaughtered for Tabaski annually. But what is strikingly admirable about the Tabaski tradition of slaughtering an animal is that no part of the ram is wasted. All parts of the slaughtered animal is used including the organs. The skin and horns are used to make craft and leather items, and even the vocal cords are repurposed as good luck talismans that people hang off of their door to ward off evil spirits.
You may wish a Muslim in Senegal a blessed Tabaski with “Bonne Fête de Tabaski” or “Eid al-Adha Mubarak to you and your loved ones.”
So from all of us at Fathala Wildlife Reserve to all our fellow Senegalese and tourists through the most breathtaking part of Africa; have a blessed and peaceful Tabaski!