If your holiday in Turkey happens to fall on the Feast of Sacrifice, you will find yourself surrounded by people who are more cheerful and friendly than usual, strolling around the streets in their best clothes, wishing each other a ‘Happy Eid’. This holiday spirit surrounds the entire country, as the religious and public holiday is celebrated. Everyone pays visits to family and friends, and special entertainment is arranged everywhere. The Feast of Sacrifice is one of the most important elements in Turkey’s cultural life, and as you find out more about it, you will conclude that it also provides the opportunity to get to know Turkish society better.
The Feast of Sacrifice starts with the sacrifice ritual itself, which takes place in the early hours of the first day. Some families prefer to leave this to places which arrange the slaughter for them, whereas other families prefer that the men of the house do it themselves. Once the animal has been sacrificed, and the meat put in the fridge, tables are laid for many people and the “et kavurma” or “fried meat” is prepared. The cooked meat is the known dish for the feast and the easiest to make. You can also try the fried meat in restaurants, and we recommend that you try it accompanied by onions and the local yoghurt drink “ayran”. One of the most important aspects of the Feast of Sacrifice is that of social responsibility and cohesion, and as soon as the meat is ready on the first day, the meat is shared with those families who are not able to afford to make their sacrifice.
In the religion of Islam, performing a sacrifice is a form of worship. According to Muslim beliefs, it is a way of becoming closer to Allah, of making a sacrifice for his sake and showing that everything can be sacrificed for him. It is a religious ritual every year when an animal is prepared in the appropriate way and surrendered under the suitable conditions. The preparations for the Feast of Sacrifice start in homes one day beforehand and this day is known as “Arefe”. On the day of “Arefe”, on the eve of the Feast of Sacrifice, shopping and cleaning take place in homes everywhere, and if the inhabitants are going to set off on a journey, then preparations are made for the trip.
Eid continues for four days, and according to religious belief, any animal, which is to be sacrificed,m must be slaughtered in the first three days. Animals considered suitable for sacrifice are sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo and camels. It is critical that the animal is healthy and that it has reached a certain age and care is taken that no pain is caused while carrying out the sacrifice. Since the Islamic or ‘Hicri’ calendar is 11-12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, the Feast of Sacrifice is celebrated 11-12 days earlier each year, compared to the previous year. In 2016 the Feast of Sacrifice falls between 12-15 September. According to the official authorities, the whole week starting on 12th September has been declared a public holiday.
According to Muslim beliefs, the history of the sacrifice stretches back to the Prophet Abraham and is a fascinating story. Abraham’s wife did not bear any children, and to have children, he married another wife. However, he and his first wife still longed to have a child. He said that if his first wife were able to bear a child, then he would sacrifice Ishmael, the son of his other wife, to God. Many years later, his first wife brought a baby into the world, and Abraham saw his promise to God in a dream. The following day as his son Ishmael was lying, waiting to be sacrificed, a ram came down from heaven, and God told Abraham that he should sacrifice this ram in the place of his son. According to Muslims, from that day to this, every year a sacrifice should be made.
The Feast of Sacrifice transcends the religious celebration of the ceremony of sacrificing the animal. Throughout the holiday friends and family visit each other, tasting the sacrificial meat, and offering sweets in the same way as at the feast following Ramadan. Since Eid is a public holiday, and everyone will be out and about you may find there is more traffic than usual. When you are making, your vacation plans do bear in mind that places such as large shopping malls, cinemas and parks are likely to be very crowded. The sacrifice itself takes place in specially designated areas in the major cities, and in smaller towns and villages in the gardens of private houses or some streets. Especially if you are on holiday with your children, you may find it disturbing to visit these areas so you may prefer to avoid them. Even though other Muslim countries also celebrate the Feast of Sacrifice, you will still find that it is an excellent time to visit Turkey.