Can you imagine if, on Thanksgiving, we had to track down several turkeys, chase them, catch them, slaughter them, and then prepare the raw meat and gizzards and then, of course, cook the turkey meat and parts? Also, after we cut and divided the raw meat, we gave a large portion of it to people of our community who were less financially fortunate? That is sort of what happens on Idul Adha.
Idul Adha is a Muslim holiday that serves to honor Ibrahim’s adherence to Allah’s order to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Today, this is a day of feast. Communities gather in the morning for prayers and then sacrifice cows or goats. There is a big feast from the animal meat, but a good portion of the meat is given to community members who cannot afford food.
My Idul Adha experience was at my school, Insan Cendekia. At 6 AM on Thursday, September 24th, the entire school was out on the lawn praying, which was followed by an indulgent breakfast, featuring all sorts of food from rendang (spicy meat) to a variety of ikan (fish), along with mie goring (fried noodles), bakso (meatball soup), all sorts of nasi (rice) and several other dishes. After the breakfast, we all trotted over to the lawn and the sacrifices began.
(Below are photos from the praying first thing in the morning. The women are in the back dressed in jilbabs and dresses of all colors. The men are in front wearing their prayer skirts, often times in darker shades)
Here are more photos of post-prayer, before breakfast. My Ibu Trisna is wearing lime green and there are also a couple of photos of some of the students and me being silly!
A total of eight cows were sacrificed. Each sacrifice began with a prayer. Then a few men wrangled the animal to the ground, tied the legs together, placed a leafy tree branch over the neck of the animal and sliced the animal’s throat. The throat is cut quickly and deeply, and the contents of the animal’s neck spill out onto the ground. The tree branch helps prevent the blood from spraying. A hole, dug in the ground, acts as a reservoir to collect the blood. The cow has belabored breathing for a few minutes as it dies. Once the cow is dead, the skinning begins. Every part of the animal is taken into account, very little is wasted. The limbs are sectioned off and stripped for meat along with the ribs; the intestines are kept for Coto Makassar stew, and even the cow heads are smoked and that meat is consumed as well. A few of the organs are deemed inedible, such as the four stomachs of a cow.
Here are photographs of the sacrificing process:
Somewhere between the third and fourth cow sacrifice, a cow wriggled free from being tied up and somehow set another cow loose. The men performing the sacrifices chased the two cows around the schoolyard and all around the buckets of organs, cow parts that were in process of being dismembered, and the sharp objects used to execute the sacrifices. It was a brief period of mayhem and rather exciting as everyone screamed and fled as the two cows charged around.
What I found most impressive about Idul Adha was how every single member of Insan Cendekia’s community was involved in a step of the process. There were even members of Insan Cendekia in charge of supplying edible reprieve throughout the day, pisang goreng (fried bananas), oranges, water, juice, etc.
Below are a few photographs of Bu Trisna and several students making pisang goreng (fried bananas) as part of the refreshment station:
Above: Bu Trisna with a big heap of banana peels after having made several batches of pisang goreng!
Here is a student on a motor bike with his hands full of knives delivering utensils for the students working to roast and skin the cow heads:
And here are a couple of cow heads being roasted:
The largest operation of the day is separating the cow meat. Hundreds of students were involved. The parts of the cow were brought over to the students to strip of fat and separate into smaller chunks of meat to be weighed and placed in a bag to be charitably distributed to the larger community. I got to participate in this step! It was alarming at how fresh the raw meat was, the flesh and fat were still warm, as the animal had been sacrificed only 10 minutes earlier.
As an American raised in urban/suburban settings, I’ve never been so close to my food. I feel like it’s easy to lose sight of where our food comes from in America. When we receive meat, its either already prepared in a perfectly sized portion, cooked and presented on a plate or purchased at a supermarket or deli all wrapped up. If it is not already cooked or sliced for us, we received it in a refrigerated state, already ground, quartered, or pre-portioned. In both cases, all indicators that the meat was once an animal are removed… skin, feathers, eyes, tails, etc. On Idul Adha, it was impossible to forget that the meat was once a living, breathing cow. As we worked to separate the meat from the fat, other cows wheezed in the background, slowly meeting their end.
Below is a photo of a student holding up a cow tail:
And here are some cow parts that were deemed inedible:
After all eight cows were sacrificed and the meat was divided evenly into hundreds of packages, members of Insan Cendekia went out into the greater area of Gorontalo to deliver the packages to hungry families, as the central theme of this holiday is to honor Ibrahim and also to give to others.
On Saturday, the holiday continued with different teams of teachers, students, and school staff members cooking a feast out of the Idul Adha meat and then visiting each other’s homes to share in one another’s feasts.
Here is a photo of a group of students preparing the food and then feasting in Bu Cica’s home:
Above, L to R: Cica, me (Kelsey), and Trisna.
I’m completely in awe of this holiday and the Insan Cendekia community. The early morning prayer combined with community involvement and generosity along with the laborious activity of butchering eight cows and cooking throughout the day to feed one another is a holiday I could never have imagined. It was a truly exceptional experience, and I want to thank Insan Cendekia for letting me participate!