My most memorable Thanksgiving dinner occurred during my travels in Malawi.
Technically, we were not celebrating Thanksgiving, but Eid, the Feast of Sacrifice that marks the end of a month of fasting for Ramadan.
This important religious holiday for Muslims shares some biblical roots with Christians and Jews, as it honours the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son as an act of submission to God’s command. For Eid, the slaughtered animal is supposed to be shared one-third with family, one-third with friends and neighbours, and one third with the poor.
On this occasion, our friend Mansoor had purchased a goat. Being both a Canadian and a vegetarian, it was his first time slaughtering a live animal.
Hanging by his hoofs from a branch, the goat was given one last prayer before being slashed in the jugular. Drained of blood and stripped of coat, he was cut into pieces and shared with the entire village.
It was a real celebration with children shrieking with joy as they slurped up rubbery pieces of raw intestine. The remaining parts of the goat were fried up and served with a tomato relish on rice.
While I gnawed on my sinewy piece of miscellaneous goat anatomy, I ruminated on two things: First of all, how little meat I would eat, if I had to be involved in the slaughtering process.
More importantly, I reflected on the Malawian spirit of sharing and generosity. As Canadians, we tend to share out of our excess. Malawians, on the other hand, share out of dearth.
While Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, we in Canada can learn from the Muslim celebration of Eid in Malawi. The Malawians challenge our own generosity because they had to genuinely sacrifice in order to celebrate and share. Thanksgiving offers not only an opportunity for celebrating food and eating with our family but also offers an opportunity to share with others in need, even if all we have is a tough old goat.
-Serena Caner is a registered dietitian who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.