Many years ago I spent three months travelling the length and breadth of Turkey. My visit coincided with Kurban Bayrami, the Feast of Sacrifice, a spectacular day of slaughter and feasting.
Streets across Turkey literally flowed with blood as families sacrificed millions of sheep to celebrate.
The festival occurs 70 days after Ramadan and commemorates the story of Abraham showing obedience to God by agreeing to sacrifice his son. Once God saw his faith, he spared the boy and a ram was sacrificed in his place.
The story appears both in the Koran and the Bible.
About two-thirds of each sacrificed sheep is shared amongst relatives and neighbours. A third is traditionally given to the poor. The skin is used for leather, more often than not ending up as the coats you see for sale in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.
A pall of BBQ smoke and the smell of grilled lamb rests upon the whole country on the day.
A few weeks before the big day, I noticed these postcards appearing for sale. They featured sheep, positioned in front of a mosque, prissyed up with ribbons and jewellery for the big day.
Locals sent them to wish each other ‘Mutlu Bayramlar Dilerim’ – Happy Holidays.
I was struck by the different expression each sheep had.
One seemed to accept its fate with resigned insouciance. Another stared off into the middle distance with defiant resignation. One pooped in from the side at a jaunty angle, suggesting it wasn’t taking this whole sacrifice thing very seriously at all.
The most perplexing featured a sheep seducing the viewer a smouldering ‘over-the-shoulder’ glance.
It was a look so enticing, so full of promise, that I imagined would-be slaughterers faltering, knife poised against its neck, unable to go through with the deed.
But then, I did go to an All-Boys Agricultural High School when I was growing up.