Have you ever thought about how some major religious holidays were celebrated around the world? African cultures are diverse, attached to customs, traditions and folklore that are mostly intertwined with monotheistic religions such as Islam and Christianity. Senegal, a country in West Africa, is no exception to these folk practices, most of the main religious holidays are celebrated with hints of cultures and traditions, with specific food for each holiday and sometimes even events. to commemorate the day. The day of Ashura or “Tamxarite”, commonly known as the celebration which takes place on the 10th day of the first Islamic month, is celebrated by many Muslims around the world. However, in Senegal, on this holy day, certain attitudes and practices are customary to be observed.
In the morning, most Senegalese Muslims celebrate Tamxarite as it should be, fasting until sunset and reading or listening to the Koran, it is a day of prayers.
It is also a day when we visit our neighbors or relatives to wish them a happy new year. There is a word that is often used when celebrating Muslim holidays in Senegal is “Dewenati”, which means “May we celebrate next year”. These words are always followed by the greetings that people wish each other and above all they take the opportunity to ask forgiveness for the wrongs they may have committed against each other during the year.
The Senegalese tradition is that on this day, a millet-based meal called “Tiere” or couscous is prepared and served at sunset. Thus, very early in the morning, the women are busy in the kitchen preparing the couscous. It is a preparation that takes hours and hours and the goal is to finish everything before sunset so that it can be served and consumed as a meal for breaking the fast. The millet ground into flour is then transformed into small grains, a fascinating practice which is done by hand and which is learned and transmitted from mother to daughter. The Tiere is then accompanied by a vegetable-based sauce and mixed with all kinds of meat: beef, lamb, chicken according to the household budget.
The real tradition is to prepare this dish with seven seeds of groundnuts, cowpeas, tubers and squash which are said to be rich in nutrients and believed to give long life.
The meat that is cooked on this day is supposed to come from a share of beef bought by the heads of the mosque in each locality whose funds came from the contributions of the heads of households in each locality so that everyone can have something eat on the day of Ashura. In modern times, few people observe this part of the holiday and buy their meat. People choose to share their meal once ready with neighbours, relatives or people in need.
During the time of meal preparation, the children meet up with friends or neighbors and whisper among themselves, far from the indiscretion of adults, to prepare the part of the party they are most looking forward to, the preparation of the Tajabone festival, which takes place after the family meal. They decide together, among other things, in which neighborhoods to go to get provisions (rice, oil, vegetables, etc.) with which they will cook a meal to share the day after the party. In town, however, it is more common these days to give them a sum of money which they will share.
It is said on the day of Tamkharite to eat a lot because people are told that they will be weighed during the night by an angel named “Abdu Diambar” (Abdu the Brave) on his scales, if they are not heavy they will suffer his anger. This is how huge quantities of couscous are served in large meals that families all eat together on a large plate. The children take the opportunity to brag about the number of handfuls of couscous they have eaten for fear of being punished by Abdou Diambar.
After filling their stomachs with an unimaginable amount of couscous, a very hearty meal that quickly fills the stomach, it’s the children’s turn to take the stage for the rest of the night. Inspired by their imagination and with whimsical practices, they opt for a trick or treat.
During the night, many sounds of drums are heard, it is the beginning of the celebration of “Tajabone”. The drums are accompanied by songs sung by a group of children in which they tell how the angel Abdou Diambar accompanied by another angel from heaven descends to earth. Listening to these songs, one has the impression that they announce the coming of the two angels. The children, the oldest of whom are teenagers, come out in disguise. The boys are dressed as ladies and the girls as men. Most disguises are done in a very exaggerated way to make people laugh or show off their artistry. The reason for these disguises would be to attract Abdou Diambar so that it would be difficult for him to avoid his wrath by crossing him.
The Tajabone celebration ends the next morning with a final ritual. After a very short night’s sleep, the children get up very early to watch the sunrise. According to the tradition of Tajabone, the next morning of Tamxarite, Fatimah Al-Zahra the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad is responsible for washing all the orphan toddlers of the earth who have gone to heaven. It is then at sunrise that Fatimah Al-Zahra pours the water from her laundry on the sky which fills with beautiful bright colors that you can only see by wearing Kohl on your eyes. Then the children, kohl in their eyes, look at the brilliance of the rising sun and shout “I see them”.
Ashura is celebrated in very fanciful practices mixed with traditional practices inspired by various sources of imagination. It is a day to strengthen ties with loved ones and neighbours, ask them to forgive the faults committed during the year and to renew and maintain good relations and cohabitation. It’s a day of sharing, everyone unites according to their livelihood to allow everyone to have something to eat that day, share a meal with the poorest, and allow everyone to party.
The Tajabone festival is very creative. Children are very imaginative in creating their costumes and people to imitate. In addition to dressing up as the opposite sex, it is common to see young people dressing up as old people or imitating the star of the moment. It’s not uncommon to see adults joining the kids for the fun of showing off their costume skills.