Tag Archives: holidays

Zangbeto: Divinity of the Night

Zangbeto: Divinity of the Night

Zangbeto, another Vodun divinity, is the protector of the night. This depiction of the divinity sits outside of a house in a neighboring town and is about three feet tall. I was told it was constructed to protect the house. At certain times of the year and at special ceremonies, this divinity comes out into the community in a bodily form (or, if you are a skeptic like me, then a person puts on a costume to represent the Zangbeto). The bodily form of Zangbeto looks like a walking haystack. I have seen this several times but have been warned against taking photos.

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Easter Sunday

Easter Dinner 1

Easter is a big holiday in Benin — lots of church and family celebrations. Jen and I partook in both. In the photo above we are with three priests and other members of the local Catholic church at a lunch celebration. In the photo below we are with friends of ours at a picnic in the woods. We ate very well this day.

Easter Sunday 3

Easter 2

Festa Bedju (2)

Our host family getting ready to go home after party day in Sao Jorge (our town). The pot on Adam's head is leftovers we sent home with them!

Our host family getting ready to go home after party day in Sao Jorge (our town). The pot on Adam’s head is leftovers we sent home with them!

Adam at about 7am, starting his pot of beans.

For our town’s festa day, Adam and I hosted a giant party at our house. We bought a few kilos of freshly butchered pig, mountains of kale, enough beans to feed an army, twice as much booze as seemed advisable, and made as many cakes as time allowed. From 6am to 6pm we were in action prepping, serving and hosting our former language instructors, other volunteers, and friends from town who passed by. In the evening, we headed down the hill to see the live bands. Despite my best efforts to stay awake, I had to throw in the towel at 5am, and I missed seeing Ze Espanhol, who came on stage at about 6am.

We had a lot of beans, and a lot of kale.

We had a lot of beans, and a lot of kale.

The county government freshly whitewashed all the walls and the church steps, where these kids messed around with drums as the stage was set up.

It's not all just music, food, and booze. The parties are in celebration of patron saints, so there are religious processions and special Masses, too. Here's the procession coming past our house.

It’s not all just music, food, and booze. The parties are in celebration of patron saints, so there are religious processions and special Masses, too. Here’s the procession coming past our house.

Thank goodness for our host mom and host aunt, who helped host. (Truthfully, they ran things and I helped!)

Cooking.

Cutting up the pork.

I missed Ze, but I managed to stay awake long enough to catch Amarildo.

Festa Bedju (1)

 

Adam with our host mom and host dad and our host half-sister, at their house during our host community's festa.

Adam with our host mom and host dad and our host half-sister, at their house during our host community’s festa.

Making dumplings with our host family. Yum.

Making dumplings with our host family. Yum.

It’s festa (party) season in Cape Verde—the time of year when every town holds a giant street party in celebration of itself and its patron saint, and every household opens its doors to friends and family who come from all over the island to visit and celebrate. Every household cooks up a giant pot of food, stocks up on drinks and feeds everyone who passes through. The county government organizes free live music on stage in the middle of town and for the bigger parties, a big tent with a DJ. Plus, community organizations hold parties in other locations throughout town. The revelry lasts for several days without end: high schoolers stay up all night with their parents listening to the music, men young and old think nothing of going 36 or 48 hours without sleeping, and women cook up batch after batch of pork and beans and katxupa around the clock. Festa bedju literally means “old party,” but in practice it’s just a great party. I wish I were there to celebrate once more, so in honor of the season, I thought I’d share some pictures of last year’s parties.

You have to be careful how much you eat at each house, without offending the host, since you're going to have to eat at every house. Everyone knows how it is, but that's no excuse for refusing the food!

At our favorite language teacher’s house. You have to be careful how much you eat at each house, without offending the host, since you’re going to have to eat at every house. Everyone knows how it is, but that’s no excuse for refusing the food!

Christmas Day Dinner

Christmas Day Dinner

It was market day in our town on Christmas day. The market ran at about 50% of its normal capacity. Less commotion and vendors made it particularly easy to navigate. I recently discovered that a vendor sells fresh beef (photo below) on market days so we splurged for the holiday. Market butchers don’t cut the meat into the same cuts we know from the US. Generally they will hack off any piece of the animal that is available. All is the same price. On this day the butcher tried to give me part of the liver and some large bones in my half kilo of beef but I asked him to take them out.  

I took the beef home and cut it up into tiny cubes. Then I hacked it up with my chef’s knife until I had a course ground beef. I mixed in bread that I’d soaked in milk, some chopped onions and garlic, sweet basil from the garden, a couple of eggs and some salt and pepper. Meatballs. Yum. The meatballs were extra delicate because I used a lot of milk-soaked-bread so I broke them up in the sauce I made and we had pasta with meat sauce for dinner. A little of the fresh cheese from lunch on top and a bottle of wine on the side. It wasn’t Christmas dinner at Aunt Harriet’s house but it was a great cap to a fine day.

Beef Butcher Avrankou Market

Christmas Day Lunch 1 – Homemade Bagels

Bagel 2A friend and fellow Peace Corps volunteer shared that her family’s Christmas tradition includes eating bagels on Christmas morning. Her family was coming to visit and she wanted to continue the tradition so she was making bagels for them. Brilliant. Jen and I decided to adopt the idea for our Christmas 2012. We used the recipe she recommended from seriouseats.com. The bagels were boiled for one minute before we added the sesame seeds and baked them in the Dutch oven. The added step of boiling them made the recipe only slightly more time consuming than making any other bread from scratch. And, they were really good. Not quite Absolute Bagels, but worth the effort nonetheless.

Bagels