Deweneti, baal leen ma aaxx, baal naa leen. Yal na ňu Yaala boole baalal, ňu fekee dewen kooraat ko ci jaamm. Bu dewen naree ňaaw, yal na mel ni ren.
This statement literally translates: “Until next year, forgive me, I forgive you. May Allah forgive us, may we live until next year and fast again in peace. If next year is not going to be pretty (good), may it be like this year.” This is the prayer (or the many variations of it) that Muslims exchange in Senegal on Korité or Eid al Fitr, the holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan. Koor in Wolof means the period of fasting, hence Korité, the end of the fasting period. In Senegal, Korité is actually perceived as the smaller holiday compared to Tabaski or Eid El adha, which is the holiday commemorating Allah’s call to his prophet Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son Ishmael. Although most people buy new clothes for Korité, many don’t, and people do not go overboard with the preparations as opposed to Tabaski during which they spend a lot of money on clothes, shoes, and hair.
In Senegal, the routine celebration of Korité begins with communal prayer in the morning. After the prayer, it is customary to eat laax (thick millet porridge eaten with yogurt) for breakfast, and later have a copious lunch made of chicken or some other meat. In the afternoon, children dress up and go from house to house asking for ndewenal (gifts of money). In the evening, adults also dress up and visit family members and neighbors to ask for forgiveness, usually uttering the above statement at some point in the conversations. This visit or ziar is an opportunity to strengthen relationships and mend broken ones.
In my family, we gave muuru koor, (the annually required charity or Zakat al fitr) to neighbors we felt needed help. My parents would measure the number of years of each member of our family and give the equivalent in rice or millet. We took these bags of grain at night for discretion, because we did not want the eligible families to feel that the whole neighborhood knew that they were receiving charity.
It is also a practice to give parents, in-laws, and other older relatives and neighbors, suukaru koor (“fasting sugar”). During Ramadan, people consume a lot of sugar due to the preparation of juices and dishes that require sugar, probably because it is said that the Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W.) liked to eat sweets when he broke his fast. However, suukaru koor is not an Islamic requirement. It is a Senegalese cultural etiquette that shows people that you value and respect them. So those who did not fulfill this “optional” requirement during Ramadan still have until Korité, or the days immediately following the holiday, to complete it.
This side of the Atlantic, Eid al Fitr is the better known Muslim holiday because most Americans have heard about Ramadan. For this reason and because I feel the need to belong to a religious community, Korité has become a big holiday for me as well. In Senegal, like many women my age, I never went to the mosque for the Eid prayer. It is often men, children, and older women who attend the communal prayer. However, in recent years, I have attended the prayers at our local mosque, mainly to create a feel of a holiday for myself and my children. The children love going because they get to have treats after the prayer.
I still prepare laax for breakfast and cook a big meal. The children also stay home if Eid is during the school year. I have considered giving them presents on Korité instead of Christmas, but that would make them feel left out come Christmas. I have settled with giving them ndewenal on both Korité and Tabaski. Too bad they cannot go from house to house asking for ndewenal because as a child, that was the one thing I looked forward to the most on Korité.