Bosnian Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Adha with food, family


The celebration of Eid-ul-Adha in Bosnia and Herzegovina follows Muslim tradition. Beginning with the sacrifice of a ram, the celebration includes prayer, time with family and good food.

By Jusuf Ramadanovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo – 05/01/09


Bey's Mosque in Sarajevo. [Jusuf Ramadanovic]

Bosnian Muslims still largely celebrate the new year in the manner of communist times, when the state favoured the observance of state holidays over that of religious ones. However, the major winter holiday for Bosnia Muslims is Eid-ul-Adha or Kurban-Bayram -- a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide.

Eid-ul-Adha falls on a different day each year because the lunar Islamic calendar is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. This season, the holiday fell on December 8th, the tenth day of the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijje.

The literal meaning of the name of this holiday is "Festival of Sacrifice". It commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, as an act of obedience to Allah. However, when Allah saw Ibrahim's readiness to do so, he allowed him to slaughter a ram instead of his own son.

Sacrificing rams is a tradition for Eid-ul-Adha among Bosnian Muslims and throughout the Muslim world. The holiday itself lasts three days. On the first day, based on tradition, the believer must sacrifice a ram or arrange for someone else to do it in his name. He then distributes the meat to family, friends and the poor.

The morning prayer on Kurban-Bayram is a special one. According to religious rules, one must bathe in the morning, put on his best clothes and go to the mosque, where believers gather for prayer, congratulate each other, and socialise. To avoid any evil influences, after the service, they should take a different route home.

The Bayram meal -- or the Bayram sofra as it is called in Bosnia -- is again special: the hosts must set the table with their best tablecloth, plates and utensils. The luncheon is huge, and tradition says it must include a favorite dish for each family member.

Bosnian cuisine owes much to the Ottoman past, so the meals on the Bayram table will normally be Turkish-influenced specialties. For the main course, the lady of the house will prepare begova corba (Bey's soup), bosanski lonac (Bosnian vegetable and meat stew, traditionally cooked in a clay pot), hadzijski cevap (veal stew), musaka (minced meat and potato moussaka), various dolmas (stuffed onions and paprika) and sarmas (stuffed cabbage). Various pies will also be on the table.

Sweets are another mainstay -- strong, Turkish in origin and suffused with sugar water. They generally require great skill to prepare -- baklava (very sweet walnut pie) and tufahija (stuffed apples) are probably the best known. One other sweet, halva, though, is simple to prepare:

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  • 1 measure of flour
  • 1 measure of butter
  • 1 measure of sugar (or honey)
  • 2 measures of water
  • a bit of powdered sugar
  • a pack of vanilla sugar


Heat butter in a deep pan and fry the flour, stirring continually, with a wooden ladle. Keep it from burning. Fry until the mass starts separating from the ladle. In a separate pot, boil sugared water. Add the hot sugared water onto the flour and mix quickly. Protect your hands from burns! Mix until a smooth mass forms. Serve hot halva on small plates using a wet spoon to take it out of the pan part by part, forming small, spoon-shaped cookies. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and vanilla sugar.

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