Baa bye, sheep

sheep in kazakhstan

There’s a rumor we have three days off next week: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Only in Central Asia does that make sense, as far as I know.

There are holidays that (it seems to me) everyone forgets about each year. They get left off the official calendars and so as these holidays get approach, some begin to speculate as to when they will be celebrated.

Just in the nick of time, the announcement comes from the president of the country on the news network, which is conveniently owned by his daughter.

In this case, he said, “We will rest Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.”

Since he was recently reelected with a 99.9% approval rating, you would think this announcement would solve everything, but it doesn’t. Never, ever underestimate the power of beauracracy in a post-Soviet country.

Since Tuesday is the holiday day itself, and Sunday is usually a day off, we will only have to work one make-up day for Monday… we think.

That means, people speculate, that we will work this Saturday to make up for Monday.

But all this is just gossip in my life until the head of the instituation I work for approves the president’s proclamation and the implied make-up day.

I have seen teachers, though not at my present university, waiting into the late afternoon and evening for the rector’s announcement the day before an alleged day off!

Where are the students, you might wonder. Since many have to travel on the train to get home, and buy tickets to do that, they just leave and hope the bearucratic whirlwind behind them settles before they get back.

For reasons like these, Central Asians are a people who often believe rumors before they believe the news, who assume what they are hearing is far from the whole story.

In the meantime, I’m just waiting.

Wondering what the holiday is? It’s called Kurban Ait (The Feast of the Sacrifice) and it commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son (according to Muslim tradition, the son is Ishmael) at God’s command and then God’s intervention of providing a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead.

The normal person on the street, though, doesn’t associate the holiday with that background. I just asked a more-than-usually devout colleague and he said that the holiday is for going to mosque, praying, sacrificing the sheep and giving to the poor. And unlike all the secular holidays, people abstain from vodka.

One of my student’s most vivit childhood memories was falling in love with the sacrificial sheep. His family bought the sheep early, since it was cheaper that way. They lived in a flat, so the sheep lived with them there. He and his sister grew to love it, but the holiday came and then they had to eat it.

Sheep, by the way, are expensive. Maybe $180, not less, my friend says.

In a way, this is a holiday for the very devout and those with money.

I contrast to this, I’m grateful to serve a God who says,

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Is 55:1)

(Photo courtesy of the Trend)

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