Friday, January 4, 2008

*I actually updated my google photos, the albums are new starting with “A Tajik Wedding”

I knew coming to Tajikistan that the holidays would be quite different, but I really didn’t know what to expect. I assumed that because it’s mainly a Muslim country that no one would celebrate Christmas, and I didn’t know if there any celebrations at all for New Years. Well I was pleasantly surprised when I found out they celebrate New Years much like we celebrate Christmas! They decorate trees, put up colourful lights outside, and hang garlands all around. They may have been decorating for New Years, but it sure helped it feel like Christmas to me! And the best part was that the children recieve a visit from Father Frost much like our Santa, so the excitment is all the same!

The first holiday of the month was a holiday I was not prepared for, on Thursday, Dec 20th was Qurban. This is NOT a holiday for vegetarians! It is based on the Bible story of Abraham and his son; when God asked Abraham to kill his son to prove his loyalty to God he tried, but had a very difficult time. God then stopped him and said that he can sacrifice an animal instead, that he proved through trying that he was truly dedicated. So now every year, the Muslims sacrifice animals and bring some meat to family members, friends, and they even give some to the homeless. As a vegetarian I don’t see the need to slaughter all of these animals, how about they bake cookies and give them out instead? I mean, after all I don’t think the animal was agreeing to ‘sacrifice’ its life… it’s just one holiday I will never get! But none the less, it was an official holiday which meant no work. So I invited Umeda over to my place to celebrate a peaceful way – by baking cookies to share with others!

Christmas was the following week, but no one celebrates it here. Even the Russian’s who are Christian celebrate their version of Christmas in January. But that was ok; I made plans to spend it with Philip (American) and Peruiza (Uzbek) at their house. I went over Christmas Eve and we baked a pumpkin pie. Then Christmas day we made an excellent dinner with pureed carrot soup, fresh dill bread, salad, non-stuffed stuffing, mashed potatoes, belenchi, and they roasted a chicken for them. It was a great day; we had an excellent meal, had some wine, and watched Christmas movies! Well, this is Tajikistan so it didn’t go THAT smoothly, there was a 3 hour break between eating and movies because of a power outage… and we lost the gas and had to only use electric appliances to cook half way through. But how often is Christmas relaxing back home? It was kind of nice to have a 3 hour candle light chat to really enjoy each others company.

So New Years quickly approached, we had the MEDA parties on the 28th. They were a huge success! There was a children’s party that we held at the MEDA office, where the children came in costumes to sing, dance, play games, meet Father Frost and get presents. They really enjoyed it, and it was so nice to see so many little ones so happy! They were adorable in their costumes too, and they all held hands and walked around the New Years tree while singing to the music. Some of them even knew the words to a few English Christmas songs, like “Jingle Bells”, when they sang it for Father Frost they won a prize. It was a great experience for me to see how other cultures celebrate their holidays.

The staff party followed later that night; we had it at one of my favorite restaurants “The Rose”. It was a very warm and cozy atmosphere, and we had the place to ourselves so we could celebrate freely. We played some games, there was limbo, and a blindfolded snowman drawing contest, and a dancing contest involving a sheet of newspaper, dancing in couples, and folding it in half when the music stops, they were all tones of fun! In-between games people were dancing, it was nearly impossible to get them off the dance floor. The party started at 5, yet we didn’t sit down and eat until 9! Tajiks know how to have fun J

So on the 31st for the real New Years Eve, I had tried to get a group together for bowling. However Brad had just arrived back from America, and Philip and Peruiza had a little bit of a disaster at their house (due to electricity and water shortages) so the group dwindled down enough to scrap that idea and reschedule that for another day. Instead I stopped by Brad’s in the afternoon and brought cake, and Umeda stopped by with some traditional foods she made for her family (and made extra for us, how nice!). So we had a quick visit, then we went our separate ways for the evening. I went to Philip and Peruiza’s and we once again ate some junk food, watched some movies, and brought in the New Year watching the Tajik President give a speech (to make it even less exciting, we had no idea what he was saying, lol). But we toasted with champaign to bring in the New Year, and hoped the President was promising electricity, gas, and water for the year to come!

1 comment:

Rach said...

Hey Kelly! Sounds like there are some parallels in our experience of Muslim holidays... I actually saw a cow being slaughtered for the December Eid, and added one more reason to remain vegetarian to my list. I'm glad to hear you had a christmas-like experience for new year's... it's nice to have some connection to the normal traditions back home! Hope all's well... thinkinging of you in Cairo!