Tabaski is the Eid al-Adha celebration observed in the Republic of Senegal in West Africa. The holiday celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God. Eid al-Adha is one of the most important holidays on the Muslim calendar and is celebrated with much enthusiasm in Senegal. For this holiday, sheep are slaughtered, and the meat is divided into three portions, as is customary for Eid al-Adha celebrations. One-third of the slaughtered sheep is kept for the household that slaughtered it, one-third is prepared as a feast, and one-third is given to neighbors and the poor who can’t afford a sheep. This holiday festival begins on the 10th of Dhu al-Hijjah and ends on the 14th of Dhu al-Hijjah.
The History of Tabaski
Tabaski is the celebration of Eid al-Adha and has been observed for quite some time in Senegal. This festival is a celebration of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to Allah. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son to God, but God stayed his hand and told him not to sacrifice his son but to instead sacrifice a sheep. He was then told that once the sheep was sacrificed, he was to distribute some of it to his friends and family members as an act of obedience. This festival begins on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, which is the twelfth month on the lunar Islamic calendar. Because this calendar is lunar and not solar like the Gregorian calendar, the date of this holiday changes from year to year.
Tabaski Customs, Traditions & Celebrations
Although Eid al-Adha is celebrated all over the world, in Senegal it is known as Tabaski. This is a four-day Islamic festival that begins with sunrise prayers at the local mosque. Once that has been done, families prepare to slaughter a ram in a ritual sacrifice. When the ram has been slaughtered, one-third will be eaten by the family, one-third is given to family and friends, and one-third is distributed to the poor as an act of charity. Since 9 out of 10 people in Senegal are Muslim, many people can be seen traveling to their home villages to have a feast with their families—a feast that includes the ram, various vegetables, sauces, and rice.
No part of the ram is wasted, and all parts of it are 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 on their doors to ward off evil spirits. It is estimated that approximately 4 million animals are slaughtered for Tabaski each year. When the feast is complete, children dress up and go house to house asking for pocket money or ndewenal from neighbors. People also visit family and friends in the evening, wearing their best clothing and asking forgiveness from one another—an act known as ziar.