Eid al-Adha is the greater of two major holidays on the Muslim calendar, celebrated following the completion of Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca, prescribed to Muslims as one of the five pillars of Islam. You don’t have to have gone on Hajj to observe this Eid. Here in Jordan, as in many Muslim-majority countries, it was a week-long holiday from school and work.
Known also as “The Feast of the Sacrifice,” Eid al-Adha commemorates the willingness of Abraham – or Ibrahim – to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, at God’s command. (As you may know, there is a parallel and nearly identical story found in Judaism and Christianity in which Abraham is prepared to sacrifice his other son, Isaac. According to Islamic tradition, Ishmael is said to be the progenitor of the Arab people. Just as Abraham is preparing to sacrifice his son, God intervenes and offers a lamb in Ishmael’s place. Eid al-Adha is thus a time to recall and reflect upon having complete trust and faith in God, or Allah.
The date of Eid al-Adha is based on the lunar calendar and falls 10 days after the sighting of the new moon which marks the beginning of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. This year, Eid officially began at sunset on October 14.
During Eid, many Muslims honor Abraham’s faith and devotion to Allah by sacrificing a lamb, sheep, goat, camel, or cow. Families often keep one third of the meat, share another third among relatives and friends, and distribute the last third to the poor and those who may not be able to afford their own. Gifts and meals are exchanged, people dress up and often purchase new clothes. Many make visits to extended family and friends throughout the week and attend extra prayers at the mosque.
We live on a lively street in Amman that is normally full of honking horns, loud voices, and music of all genres blasted from car windows (my recent favorite is an attempt to bring back the song “Barbie Girl”). But this week has been surprisingly quiet in comparison. Many have left town for vacation and family visits. Many of those who stayed home seem to be taking the opportunity to spend extra time with friends and relatives. It’s been fun to ask people about their own traditions and plans, and to offer the greeting of “Eid Mubarak!” (Happy Holidays!)
For our part, we invited a family we’ve gotten to know over the past month (a mother and her two sons, ages 8 and 10) to our apartment for dinner. We tried to prepare a meal they may not otherwise have the opportunity to eat in Jordan, and managed to scrape together ingredients for quesadillas with chips and salsa, brie cheese with butter crackers, and a few other odds and ends. Not the fanciest dinner, but it was a big hit and a festive evening. Before they left, they dubbed Melissa and me with pretty adorable nicknames of endearment – Mimi and ChooChoo.
Do you have any favorite traditions, stories, or photos from Eid this year or previous years? If so, feel free to send them along or post them here!