I experienced my first Azerbaijan Holiday—Qurban Bayrami. Only experienced it partly though…

Some Background: Qurban Bayrami means the “Festival of Sacrifice”. The holiday is celebrated at the end of the Hajj—the Islamic pilgrimage to Mina, Saudi Arabia. Many Muslims celebrate the holiday to commemorate the faith of Ibrahim (Abraham). The story goes, God told Ibrahim to sacrifice is son (Ishmael) which was very hard for Ibrahim to do, but Ibrahim remained obedient or rather submissive to God. For Ibrahim’s obedience, God sent a ram to be used in Ishmael’s place.

Qurban Bayrami in Azerbaijan is an official holiday; many people have the day off. On this day families sacrifice an animal such as a sheep, goat, or cow. A specific prayer is said during the sacrifice. Only families that can afford to buy an animal and sacrifice it do because it is very expensive. In Azerbaijan, families usually do the sacrifice themselves. Some families may ask a butcher to do it for them. My host family did it themselves; unfortunately, I was not home to observe. I did see a family skinning a sheep at another volunteer’s house after they had sacrificed it. From what I understand, the sacrifice is done very specifically so that the animal does not suffer. After the sacrifice, the family skins the sheep and divides the meat amongst family, friends, neighbors, and the poor. Families also visits mosques and exchange gifts.

It’s actually a pretty cool holiday. The holiday is about God’s provisions and giving to the poor. It is very important (almost required) for families who do sacrifice an animal to give a portion of it to the poor—those who cannot afford meat. I think it’s like a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas. On Thanksgiving we are thankful for all that God provides for us. God provides for his followers because they are obedient to him. Plus we sacrifice many turkeys for the holiday. On Christmas and Easter we are once again thankful that God provided his Son to be the ultimate sacrifice.

I just wish I got to see the procedure. It would have been interesting to observe.