This is the first time in a long time that we have been in Turkey for Kurban Bayram (or the feast/festival of the sacrifice), which is why we are staying slightly longer than normal. This is the Bayram I really struggle with because of the whole sacrifice thing. Everyone is in this big race to find a suitable animal to slaughter, usually a sheep but for families clubbing together or those who wish to show their wealth or greater piety a cow. It’s not just because I’m a veggie that I struggle, there are quite a few reasons.
I struggle with the idea of all these animals being slaughtered on one day. Islam being so prescriptive means that this is the day the slaughter must be done. But it also instructs people to divide the meat into thirds. One for the family slaughtering, one for the wider family and one for charity. The thing is, in a large family, when everyone wants to slaughter their own animal it does mean that there is rather a lot of meat to go round. The whole charity part is great and some people now make financial donations rather than kill an animal they don’t really need to. Yet, the very nature of Islam means that people will stick rigidly to the rules even if it makes no sense to–no difference with many faiths I suppose.
The fact that it all has to be done on a certain day is another part I struggle with. In the beginning there were few believers but now it’s the biggest religion in the world. So I find it hard to put together that God, who is supposed to be all knowing and all seeing, would make such a rigid rule that would end up with so many animals being killed in one day, and particularly at a time when preserving meat was not as simple as today (no fridges or freezers). I suppose it’s not that different from what goes on in abattoirs around the world each day but this isn’t always done in abattoirs. Many people prefer to slaughter their own animal, often in their own street or garden, even though this was banned years ago by the Turkish government. And, as a friend pointed out, perhaps it’s no different to the mass slaughter of Turkeys for Christmas and Thanksgiving, which are only shared amongst family. At least there is the important element of giving a good portion of the meat to the poor.
The whole idea of animal sacrifice to God bothers me. Which is odd given that, as a Christian, I should buy into the idea of Jesus being the ultimate sacrifice being human and everything. Not sure why that is more acceptable to me but perhaps I think about it in terms of Jesus being human and so having a say in what happened, whereas animals don’t, they are completely controlled by our desires (unless they are wiley and escape). Then again my own faith is built on quite a bit of doubt and scepticism that personally I find a healthy thing. If you don’t question and accept things as written then your mind is not open.
One of the rules about this bayram is that people are not supposed to sacrifice an animal if they are in debt or doing so gets them into debt. Unfortunately for a very prescriptive religion this appears to be one of those pick and choose rules that people frequently ignore. Many people don’t acknowledge they are in debt, often they treat credit cards as magic money and fail to see that when they buy an animal or pay the butcher with a credit card they are actually creating debt for their sacrifice. But then you can’t get people to understand this, in the same way that people will insist on fasting despite being ill, on medication, or any of the other reasons that Islam specifically says people must not fast.
Again, any of these things you can see in all faiths and people will pick and choose rules to suit them or not. Either way, we stayed for the bayram as M (and I) believe that it is part of their dual culture and we have always said we want them to fully understand both and not end up being kids with just two passports.
The boys are happy, they have been given quite a bit of bayram money, something they tend not to get when they are back in the UK. While they are busy working out how to spend it we did put a rule on it this year. M and I agreed that whatever M gave they would have to give away half to charity. Unfortunately when we explained this Fatso misunderstood and thought they only had to give 10 lira out of all their money rather than half their money from M each. He has been plotting for a while how he could afford a new Ben 10 figure and so this news has caused some disappointment. As for me, while I think it is important that they learn how lucky they are and to share what they have with others who don’t, I have been driven mad by his Ben 10 obsession because it is only because we are here and they have seen cartoon network again that it has emerged. Only a few months ago we gave away a load to charity because they never played with them. But it is their decision and hopefully it means he won’t be nagging me when his birthday comes around.
We have come up to the yayla in Gozne this bayram because Emine invited us for breakfast. My contributions were a peach sponge, lemonade, and some helva. Not really breakfast things but I have to use up some stuff before we go back to the UK. This led to a rather eclectic meal last night, so it’s nice to have a meal elsewhere that won’t cost us. It does also mean that I am here with a few but not all of the extended family. M’s other kids never visit while I am here. M’s brother has stayed in Germany and his older brother is in Bodrum. So we’re here with his younger brother, who unfortunately drives me mad and the boys don’t really like either. He has this horrid Turkish habit of grabbing the kids by the cheek and fails to understand that it hurts and then compounds this by laughing at them if they protest or cry. I hate this habit but his wife is no better because she has just grabbed Lai complaining he hasn’t said hello or given her a hug: why would he? He hasn’t seen you for over 3 years so has no memory of you. But being Turkish she doesn’t care to understand this and manhandled him, trying to force him towards him until I shout for her to leave him alone. I am not talking about a gentle tug here. All too often Turks do not understand that kids do not like you being right in their face particularly if they don’t know you.
Fatso has been really fascinated by the sacrifice element of this bayram and announced several times that he wants to witness the sacrifice or even do the cutting himself! I know that many Turkish kids do see this and perhaps it’s a good thing because at least them they fully understand where meat comes from and what it entails. Too many kids in the UK, and adults, merrily eat prepackaged meat from supermarkets and then balk at the idea of animals dying. “Oh I couldn’t eat a….” That is exactly my reason to not eat meat, if I can’t kill it myself I won’t eat it. But I do fear that Fatso doesn’t really understand what he is so eager to witness. He can be an incredibly sensitive boy and gets affected deeply by things that upset him, and this could be really upsetting. I doubt he will get to witness it but this could be an obsession for a while to come. The moveable nature of bayrams means that the next few summers we will be here for kurban.
This is also the bayram where Muslims are supposed to go on Haj/Pilgrimage. (I have similar feelings about having to do all this on certain days for it to be true Haj, to those I have about everyone sacrificing an animal on the same day but hey ho. M has announced that he wants to take the boys in a few years. This, I can see, is going to cause some arguments. Aside from the fact that Smelly is becoming more adamant that he is an atheist with humanist leanings, I really cannot agree with him taking them. For me a pilgrimage is a solemn journey that you can only take when you feel you are ready and have reached a point in your faith that you feel it is time. The key thing here being YOU. For me, it would be cheating or deceitful for the kids to be to be led to believe they have completed the Haj when they had not done it of their volition or had a deep enough knowledge of the faith to understand what they were doing. Many people may disagree with this and argue that children can make significant faith decisions. In fact, my former church now accepts children for communion before confirmation. A decision I supported but not one I necessarily would agree with for my kids, mainly because I don’t particularly buy into the child baptism bit. Plus I tend to think that it’s not a true faith decision if that is the only faith they have ever been exposed to. Let’s see, who knows what will happen in a few years time.
For now though, the kids are playing happily, their cousin has been told not to use them as an opportunity to try out his crappy English on them and to speak to them in Turkish, the men are on the balcony talking about whatever while the women have only just sat down from serving and cleaning, and the cock is crowing because he is in no danger of being killed anytime soon–no matter how much the neighbours may want to turn him into soup to stop his infernal crowing at ungodly hours.