Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012 - No comments

Run, Forrest!!!

It's not an unusual thing for me to wake up to the sound of sheep bleating.  We live within earshot of a whole barn-full, and most mornings I hear their hungry little voices and the tinkling of their bells as their shepherd takes them out for breakfast.  

But today is the one day a year when their baa-ing is mixed with a whole chorus of moo-ing and grunting as sheep, cows and goats all head for death row, as it were.  The cute pet Daddy picked out at the animal pazar a few days ago has been tied up in the yard just long enough for little Mehmet and Fatma to get attached to its fuzzy face, but the time has arrived for it to become a remembrance of the Prophet Abraham's sacrifice and then be sent off on plates to neighbours and relatives for dinner.

The first couple of years I experienced Kurban Bayramı (the Sacrifice Festival) I would head off to the nearest "sanctioned slaughter site" (be it an open field or a carwash) and take photos of all the gory action.  Six years in, I suppose the novelty of blood and guts and cow heads has worn off, and I am happy to participate in the more pleasant side of the holiday:  the part that involves visits to neighbours, hand-kissing, baklava and trick-or-treating kids coming to the door for sweets.

But the honest truth is that, more than the socializing and the sugar, my very favourite part of the first day of the Sacrifice Festival is the part where I sit down to watch the evening news.  Once they get past the bits about which mosque the Prime Minister attended for his Bayram namazı (prayers) and all the pilgrims in Mecca on the Hajj, they get to my favourite part:  all the sacrifice animals that ran away.  

It's like watching some kind of bloopers show:  a solemn religious tradition gone hysterically awry.  One minute, the cow is standing calmly in the back of the truck awaiting his impending doom, the next minute he's taking off down the five lane highway, running for his life.  I'm no animal rights activist, and I do appreciate a good plate of Kurban meat when it arrives at my door, but I always find myself cheering for the runaways on the screen, hoping that a few of them will outrun their pursuers and make it to freedom.

(photo courtesy of

The funniest ones are always the cows that escape in Istanbul because, inevitably, they end up causing massive traffic jams.  But today, I saw one that topped even that.  In Rize, one speedy bovine made a break for it, took off down the road, jumped into the Black Sea and started to swim!  He apparently ended up realizing that the Ukraine was an awfully long way away and came back to shore and was caught, but I still had to give him points for bravery!

(photo courtesy of
Click here for the video of the swimming cow and here for a particularly amusing one of a bull that caused quite a stir on Istanbul's busy E-5 highway.

Bayramınız kutlu olsun - happy Sacrifice Festival, everyone!