This past week was the Muslim celebration of Tobaski. If this holiday is new to you, you are not alone, we had to look it up to know what this big celebration was all about. According to the "Access Gambia" website, this is the holiday that remembers Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, but at the last minute was provided with a ram from God in place of Isaac because of Abraham's faithfulness. Some of you may be scratching your heads as you know this to be an Old Testament story, but the Koran uses many stories from the Old Testament.
On this day, the ritual is to sacrifice a ram, but if a ram is not available or too expensive a sheep, cow, goat or chicken will suffice. The animal should be slaughtered using a sharp knife while Allah's name is being spoken and then 2/3 of the meat should be given to friends, family and the needy so that nobody goes without. Almost everyone gets new, very expensive, clothes made to wear for this celebration and they celebrate all day long. Parents buy their children sugary, western treats as well on this day.
After living in this culture for a year, we tend to struggle a bit with this celebration. We have no problem with our Muslim brothers and sisters having a celebration, but we struggle with how much money is put into this celebration. Many Gambians have to ask for financial assistance to send their children to school, but they can spend $100-$200 American dollars on new outfits! This is not to say that everyone spends that much, but there are some, maybe even many, that would easily make that price range. This is on top of the cost of the animal that is being purchased for this celebration.
As Christmas approaches I think of how closely this reflects our own culture. We complain throughout the year that we don't have enough money for this or that, but then we spend a ton of money that we don't have on material gifts that we don't actually need. This causes me to think about how in our marriage and family, Elias and I can make sure that we are preserving the true meaning of holidays such as Christmas and Easter and not allowing them to get lost in the materialism of our culture.
Also as a side note for those of you who aren't aware, Elias and I will be heading home on Nov. 30th and arriving on Dec. 1st. We are excited about coming back the U.S. and for what God has in store for us stateside, we just ask for prayer as we finish up our last 11 days here. It is is bit of a stressful time, but we know that God will be faithful! Thank you all for your support during our time here and I will try to make a few more posts before we go home and continue with a couple after we return. Blessings to all of you!