Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Traditions and 'Tabaski'

It seems that I am not a very good blogger! Try as I might, my intentions and neatly composed items stay in my head and not in my blog spot.  It is nearly spring here in Kentucky. I say 'nearly' as we have been teased with sun, snow, cold and cloud.....spring blossoms are yet to fully bloom. Easter is around the corner and with it the hopes of renewed nature and more importantly the joy of celebrating our living Savior.
As a child, Easter Sunday was a special time, with special or new to me! We enjoyed a family meal often together with other guests. Family traditions have not changed too much. How do you celebrate Easter? Do you have traditions?
As I travel to Niger a few times a year, I get to observe celebrations and local customs. 

My last trip was in October, 2012. I experienced a time of family and community celebration called TABASKI.  There are a few parallels to our Easter. See what you think....?
New Clothes for Tabaski is similar to our buying Easter outfits

Finding the right sheep for the festivities-like our planning Easter Sunday lunch!
Bringing home the sheep for the Tabaski meal-shopping for groceries!
Sheep are slaughtered and prepared for cooking (note the similarity to the cross0

Sheep are cooked and meat shared with family, neighbors and the poor

Food is shared with all the family and neighbors
Family and friends gather-Hospitality is shown to all!
As you can see from these few pictures, Tabaski is a very special time of celebration in Niger. Sadly it has become commercialized like our Easter. It has become more about buying the most and best sheep than about the meaning of Tabaski, according to my friends in Niamey. Likewise, Easter has become commercialized with Easter baskets, gifts and Sunday brunches here in the USA.  The key elements of Tabaski, according to my Nigerien friends include; 

  • slaughtering of the sheep in hopes of forgiveness of sins committed in the past year, 
  • reconciliation with family members/neighbors for any offenses
  • the sharing of meat to loved ones and the needy.
WOW! This explanation blew me away!
One does not need to be a scholarly theologian to see the beautiful lessons and paralells with our Christian celebration of Easter.

  • Jesus Christ is our Lamb of sacrifice-once for all!
  • Sins are forgiven on the basis of Jesus Christ's perfect substitutionary death. His goodness has been given to those who repent and believe
  • The new clothes we love to buy at Easter are a picture of the designer robes of righteousness that all believers receive by God's grace
  • Sharing the 'Lamb' with friends, family and needy represents to me the need of our sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ's love in dying to pay for our sins. 
  • Visiting and showing hospitality to all and letting by-gones be by-gones seems a healthy and helpful practice to live in fellowship and community!
Looking at another culture and their traditions is very meaningful and deeply moving for me. As I have been meditating upon these  Tabaski celebrations, I am appreciating Easter in a deeper and richer way. My heart longs to share the truth about Jesus Christ and His love for the nations. 
I thank my Nigerien friends for being tranparent and sharing their beliefs and traditions with me....and more than that, they have shared their homes, hospitality and friendship. Can you wonder why I long to return to Niger, over and over again? 
Ok, so I am not a very faithful blogger but perhaps there was a reason to save this post for this time of year.
Two weeks from today, at this time, I will be on duty in Niger. It will be a time of learning, working, serving, and loving a people who are longing to know genuine forgiveness,peace and love that can only be found in our great living Savior.