Celebrating Idul Adha around Indonesia

This year the Muslim holiday Idul Adha, or Eid al-Adha, marked one of the first cultural experiences for Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) at their host sites. The holiday marks the peak of hajj season and a celebration of the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael for God.  Many Fulbright ETAs placed in Muslim areas were invited to join their new communities for prayers and the large group sacrifice of cattle and goats that followed.

One ETA, Gillian Irwin, reflects, “Idul Adha, is very much about the slaughtering of animals—something I  didn’t think I wanted to see because I usually joke that I prefer my meat in the form that looks least like the originating animal.  But much more than a bloody event, it’s a time for the hard work of the community to produce something respectful for the animal, pleasing to God, helpful for the poor, and nourishing for the religious and social community that participates: and it’s a beautiful thing.”

ETAs across Indonesia reiterate these different levels of meaning and share their experiences below.

WARNING: The images below are graphic in nature and contain images of blood and slaughtered animal carcasses.


“On the morning of Idul Adha, I accompanied my fellow teacher and the women in her family to a field beside the largest mosque in Sukabumi. There, I witnessed hundreds of men and women share in the Idul Adha prayer. It was a powerful experience to feel the communal spirituality of so many on the special day.”
– Elizabeth Kennedy in Sukabumi, West Java


“The men listen on as the prayers are read over loudspeaker just before the bull’s throat is cut. The knife can be seen in the man’s hand on the left side of the picture. When the cut was made, I witnessed the reality that this animal had to suffer so that other’s may eat and survive. It was a site that every carnivore should witness.”
-Matthew Moynihan | Palembang, South Sumatra 

IMG_0514 copy“The general rule for sacrifices is seven people invest in one cow or one person per goat, but when it comes to the actual process of sacrificing everyone available helps, whether that means 20 people subduing the soon-to-be-sacrificed cow or the small army responsible for cutting and weighing the meat afterwards.”
-Anna DeVries | SMAN 8 Malang, East Java

cowgoatKR“In the morning, students and staff gathered in front of school to see the sacrifices of sheep, goats, and cows. Two men skin sheep, preparing them to be butchered. Behind, a cow bucks its head in protest, perhaps realizing that it will be next!”
-Katy Rennenkampf | SMK Analis Kimia Bogor, West Java

IMG_4876MB“Two men prepare the cow for distribution of meat.”
-Maxwell Bevilacqua | Pondok Pesantren Pabelan Magelang, Central Java

Organs, or the "kotoran"

“Nothing from the slaughter is wasted. The cow organs – including the stomach, the intestines, the heart, and the lungs – will be washed out and cleaned several times before being used in dishes such as usus (intestines stuffed with tofu).”
-Kelsey Figone | Medan, North Sumatera


“An important member of the community, my co-teacher Pak Heru helps to chop segments of bone for distribution to community members, families, and the poor from the surrounding area.”
-Gillian Irwin | Sleman, Central Java


“Two children and a student work together to weigh the meat into equal portions.”
-Amelia Murphy | MAN 2 in Semarang, Central Java


“A little boy at MAN 2 in Semarang, Central Java, helps slice the cow meat into many portions to give to the poor. One cow can feed 150 people.”
-Amelia Murphy | MAN 2 in Semarang, Central Java

For another reflection about Indonesia’s celebration of Idul Adha, read Anna Cabe’s account of her holiday festivities in Palembang, South Sumatera here.

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