Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Silence of the Lambs

Before coming to Bulgaria, I’d never heard of Bayram. Bayram is the Turkic word for a festival or holiday, and it’s used by Bulgarian Muslims to refer to their two most important religious holidays: Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

I recently spent Eid al-Adha in my favorite little Bulgarian Muslim village, Gorno Dryanovo. Also known as the “Feast of Sacrifice,” Eid al-Adha commemorates Abraham’s faith and devotion to God. According to Muslim belief, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Despite loving his son, Abraham’s faith and devotion to God was so strong that he agreed to such a sacrifice. Abraham’s obedience to God was rewarded and God spared Abraham’s son’s life, allowing for a lamb to be sacrificed instead.

Eid al-Adha (Bayram) traditions vary slightly from place to place, but, in Gorno Dryanovo, Bayram combines aspects of Halloween (kids go from house to house collecting sweets and small gifts), Thanksgiving (there is a feast – a feast which the more fortunate in the community give thanks for by sharing their blessings with the less fortunate), and Christmas (first and foremost, this is a religious holiday). To be able to share in this experience as a non-Muslim was pretty special.

Within minutes of arriving, we witnessed a lamb being "sacrificed." Walking around, we saw perhaps a half-dozen similar spectacles. Typically performed in barns, the killings were often done in front of other animals - sheep, horses, cows - all of which were visibly distressed. From start to finish, the whole thing takes about 40 minutes. Interestingly, only 20 to 25 men in the village actually perform the killings; most people can't stand the sight of all the blood and guts. Surprisingly, none of that bothered me. The smell, however, did get to me in one particularly confined space.

Some kids helped with the slaughter. Others witnessed it while walking around collecting sweets. None of them seemed phased in the least.

Sheep intestines are between seventeen and twenty four meters long.

I assume this is the stomach.

Whatever it is, it was full of grass.

This is where the smell got to me.

This probably wouldn't fly in America.

Even without witnessing the slaughter, it would have been a great weekend. Here are some shots from and around the village.