Every year, 1.9 billion Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice, following the completion of the annual Holy Pilgrimage known as Hajj. Hajj is typically a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage that many Muslims save for years to realize. Normally, over two million pilgrims attend the Hajj. The Hajj pilgrimage to Islamic holy sites in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is one of the world’s largest mass gatherings. Due to the pandemic in 2020, only around 1,000 worshipers were at the annual pilgrimage. Saudi authorities imposed strict crowd control and hygiene measures because of the fears of the pandemic.1 This year, COVID-19 delays hope of the pilgrimage for millions of Muslims for a second time. Saudi Arabia has again sharply limited attendance numbers with only 60,000 pilgrims allowed to perform the Hajj. Eligible pilgrims this year must be vaccinated against COVID-19, free of chronic diseases, and aged between 18 to 65 years old.2
The Eid celebration commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham) devotion to God through his willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail (Ishmael). Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son when God substituted a lamb for Ismail. To Muslims, the story of Ibrahim and Ismail reveals the importance of sacrifice, honor, and commitment. In honor of Ibrahim’s gesture, Muslims sacrifice a lamb (or a similar animal) on Eid al-Adha and donate the meat to those in need.
Eid al-Adha is a holiday centered around reconnection with God, spirituality, family, and friends. Muslims gather for morning Eid prayers at their local mosque or center of worship followed by time with friends and family. After the prayer is when the celebrations begin for Muslim families all over the world. As the Imam (leader) concludes the prayer, Muslims embrace each other while saying “Eid Mubarak” which means “Blessed Feast/Eid”, a gesture of unity and appreciation. Then, Muslims will invite each other to a wide variety of Eid festivities ranging from lunches, to concerts, to kickball games. Muslims celebrate the day in many different ways.
Although over three million Muslims reside in the United States, Eid al-Adha is not a national holiday. However, we are making steps in the right direction as more businesses are recognizing the day by offering time off of work. In fact, New York City schools are closed on the holiday. Hopefully, or as Muslims say, “inshallah” (if God wills) Eid al-Adha may become a national holiday soon.
As the holy day approaches, Muslims are preparing for an eventful time. Some of our favorite traditions include seeing friends and family, eating our favorite traditional foods, and starting new memories with our families, whether it’s a special trip or a fun project honoring Eid. Traditionally, new clothes are worn and Eidi, a gift of money, is given to younger relatives. While COVID-19 has limited our ability to celebrate our holidays over the last 18 months, we look forward to having more celebrations in-person with family and friends during summer months.
The Integrated Work team hopes that you and your families have a relaxing and memorable Tuesday, July 20. Eid Mubarak!
1 From 2 million to 1,000 Striking photos show socially-distanced Hajj, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/29/middleeast/hajj-coronavirus-social-distancing-intl/index.html
2Authorities limit the Hajj to 60,000 pilgrims in Saudi Arabia,