Well let me tell you about it! One of the traditions here in Senegal on any holiday is to make stuff for your neighbors and share the holiday with all. For most holidays this means making large portions of whatever meal you prepare for that day and sending it out to all your neighbors. Easter however has its own special tradition. During Easter it is known that all those celebrating the holiday will make a special “drink” called Ngalax to distribute out to all their neighbors. Last year I started participating in this with Cecile and this year was no different. However I decided that I would be intentional to document the process this year for those who have never had the opportunity to experience it.
It all began on Monday…
Cecile and I went to market early in the morning. We bought 20 Kilos of peanuts and took them to the other side of the market where we had them sorted, grilled and then mashed up into peanut butter. The process of having them grilled and mashed up was a total of 2 hours, plus it was extended by the fact that we had to wait for the guy who owns the shop to show up. While we waited for him we talked to the lady who was there sorting all the peanuts and I caught about 50 percent of the words that passed as it was all in wolof (progress and yet still so far to go). After we had our peanut butter done, we bought the other things we needed including..millet, sugar, coconuts, pineapple, flavorings and raisins.
We used the wind to blow away … hmmm… not sure what the English word is so lets just say whatever was there that was not the millet. Then it was laid out to dry.
The real work began. Cecile took the millet to the grinders and made it into a flour. She then added a little bit of water and then worked it with her hands until it formed small balls. It is something they learn here real young as this is the most common traditional dinner served among her people. She worked on that for hours.
I was put to work sorting Monkey Bread. Cecile had gathered the pods from her tree and had already cracked them open and removed the fruit. I set to work sorting all the strings out of the fruit so there would be less to sift later.
Then I set to work on the coconuts. I drained the milk, skinned them and grated them into small pieces. Cecile’s neighbor came down and helped us. It was a great time all working together.
Finally I ended the night with sorting the raisins. Many raisins still have the stems on them and some have seeds, so we sorted them and took out all the part people wouldn’t want to eat.
Cecile woke up at 2 am to put the monkey break in a bucket of water to start soaking. I showed up at 8 and the serious work begins.
After the taste testing was done, it was time to take out all the plastic containers we can find and start filling them up. The kids then ran them around to different people from the neighborhood. Each neighbor, transfers it into a different container and then sends the container back to be filled for someone else. Visitors stop by knowing that today is the day that Ngalax will be made and so they find the nearest person who celebrates Easter to make sure they get their part.
It is a crazy amount of work and so one might ask why we do it? There are two main reasons I can think of.
I have come to enjoy this tradition even though it is A LOT of work and makes Easter week crazy. It is a great chance to connect with our neighbors and to be excited about what we are celebrating. This year we have even invited one of our neighbors out to the village with us to eat together on this joyous day. You can be praying for us as we continue to interact with our neighbors that our life would be a reflection of the light we have within us.