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How Eid al-Adha is Celebrated Across the Muslim World

How Eid al-Adha is Celebrated Across the Muslim World

June 13, 2024 5 min read

Muslim family sharing a meal.

Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, is a cornerstone of Islamic tradition, symbolizing profound faith, obedience, and compassion.

What is Eid al-Adha?

Eid al-Adha honors the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham in Judeo-Christian tradition) to sacrifice his son Isma’il (Ishmael) as an act of obedience to God, who intervened by providing a ram to sacrifice instead.

Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and final month of the Islamic lunar calendar and lasts for four days. It marks the culmination of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, which every adult Muslim who is physically and financially capable must undertake at least once in their lifetime.

This sacred occasion is marked by rituals that resonate deeply with Muslims worldwide: from prayer and sacrifice to communal feasting and acts of charity.

How is Eid al-Adha celebrated?

The celebration of Eid al-Adha is characterized by several key rituals:

  • Prayer: The day begins with a special prayer, known as the Eid prayer, which is performed in congregations at mosques or open prayer grounds. The prayer consists of two rakats (units), followed by a sermon (khutbah) delivered by the Imam (prayer leader).
  • Sacrifice: After the Eid prayer, Muslims who can afford to do so perform the ritual sacrifice known as Qurbani. They slaughter an animal, typically a sheep, goat, cow, or camel, in commemoration of Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son. The meat of the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts: one-third is given to the needy, one-third is shared with relatives and friends, and one-third is kept for the family’s own consumption.
  • Feasting and Celebration: Eid al-Adha is a time for celebration and feasting with family and friends. Special dishes are prepared, and lavish meals are shared to mark the occasion. It is also customary to exchange gifts and visit relatives and loved ones.
  • Charity: Charity and acts of kindness are emphasized during Eid al-Adha. Muslims are encouraged to give to those in need, especially to ensure that everyone can partake in the festivities and enjoy a hearty meal.

However, different countries have particular traditions, meals, or rituals to celebrate Eid al-Adha:

Egypt

In specific Egyptian cities, old customs linked to Eid al-Adha and the ritual sacrifice persist. In regions like Sohag, for instance, locals adorn the sheep’s head prior to its slaughter, painting its forehead with henna and adding color to specific body parts.

They parade with the animal through neighboring streets, singing, and reveling. There are instances where individuals may dip their hands in the sacrifice’s blood, leaving imprints on walls and doors as a form of commemoration.

Another enduring tradition inherited from generations past is the custom of paying respects. Typically, Egyptians visit the graves of their departed relatives to convey their Eid greetings, either on the Day of Arafah or the day following the first day of Eid.

Saudi Arabia

As the birthplace of Islam and home to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia observes Eid al-Adha with grandeur. Eid al Adha marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. In 2023, the number of pilgrims was more than 2.5 million, breaking previous attendance records.

Eid al Adha begins with communal prayers in mosques or open prayer grounds, attended by men, women, and children. Children carry baskets of sweets and dates to distribute to the faithful during the Eid prayer.

Following prayers, families gather to enjoy feasts, exchange gifts, and distribute meat from sacrificed animals (usually sheep, goats, cows, or camels) among relatives, neighbors, and the less fortunate.

Kabsa –a traditional meal in Saudi Arabia– is a cherished Eid delicacy. This fragrant rice dish comprises seasoned rice, tender meat (typically chicken or lamb), and a medley of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. Often accompanied by roasted nuts and complemented with a savory tomato sauce, Kabsa holds a special significance during the festive season.

Turkey

In Turkey, the holiday known as Eid is referred to as Şeker Bayramı, translated as “Sugar Feast.” This title nods to the sweet delicacies that play a central role in the festivities. Turkish households prepare traditional dishes like baklava and halva to mark the occasion.

The day commences with individuals cleansing themselves and putting on their new clothes. Then, they attend morning prayers at mosques or designated prayer grounds.

After prayers, families sacrifice animals, usually sheep, and distribute the meat to family members, neighbors, and the needy. In Turkey, it is prohibited to sacrifice animals outside of authorized abattoirs or slaughterhouses, many of which are located on the outskirts of major urban centers.

Despite the cultural importance of visiting relatives and friends during the holiday, some individuals in Turkey choose to forego the traditional animal sacrifice and instead donate funds to charitable causes.

Morocco

Eid al-Adha, or Eid al-Kabir as it is known in Morocco, starts with morning prayers at mosques or designated prayer areas. Moroccans adorn themselves in traditional festive attire embellished with unique Moroccan motifs and ornaments.

Families sacrifice animals, typically sheep, and distribute the meat to relatives, neighbors, and the less fortunate. Traditional Moroccan dishes such as couscous with meat and pastries like msemen are prepared for festive meals.

However, what truly distinguishes Eid al-Adha in Morocco is the Boujloud ritual, particularly prominent in Meknes. During this tradition, individuals wrap themselves in goat or sheep skins. Adorned with vibrant masks, they join a cohort of similarly disguised participants. Together, they parade through the city accompanied by rhythmic drumbeats and songs crafted specifically for the occasion. Despite the bustling atmosphere, the people of Meknes warmly embrace this custom, offering sweets, money, and even portions of their sacrificial animals as tokens of appreciation for the delight these participants bring.

Pakistan

In Pakistan, Eid al-Adha is embraced with enthusiasm. Muslims commence their day with congregational prayers at mosques following the sighting of the new moon. Traditional Pakistani delicacies such as Biryani, Sheer Khurma, and Seviyan are prepared at home and relished in the company of loved ones.

It is a common tradition to see hands adorned with henna starting from the night before Eid. People of all ages, from young girls to elderly women, decorate their hands in anticipation of the occasion.

Another highlight of Eid-ul-Adha in Pakistan is the reunion with friends and family members, marking it as one of the cherished aspects of the celebration. Eid also holds significance as a time for visiting the sick and elderly members of the community who may be unable to partake in the festivities outside. Additionally, a tradition encourages adult men to visit graveyards to pay homage to departed loved ones, acknowledging their memory and legacy during this sacred time.

Often, the Pakistani government has Pakistan Railways and Pakistan International Airlines reduce fares by up to 30 percent to facilitate travelers to meet their loved ones.

About the author

Gabriela Solis

Gabriela Solis is Ria's Senior Content Writer. Located in Querétaro, México, she focuses on telling stories that show the myriad human faces of remittances.

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