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Feast of Sacrifice

Graphic with a man, woman, cow, sheep, and goat with a mosque in the background.

The Muslim world will celebrate “Eid al-Adha,” an Arabic term meaning “Feast of Sacrifice” starting July 19, 2021. This time of the year is also when Muslims go to Mecca and other holy sites in Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage known as the hajj. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Tech. Sgt. Andrea Salazar)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

The Muslim world will celebrate “Eid al-Adha,” an Arabic term meaning “Feast of Sacrifice” starting today, Monday, July 19.

In Islamic tradition, this historic event started when Prophet Abraham was ordered to prepare his son Ismael as a sacrifice, an order which Abraham and his son unquestioningly obeyed. But Ismael’s life was spared and exchanged for a ram.

The offering of the sacrifice has become an annual celebration to commemorate the occasion and thank God for his favors.

Millions of sheep, goats and calves will be sacrificed on Tuesday, July 20, during the  Feast of Sacrifice. This occasion falls on the 10thday of the last month of the lunar calendar. The Feast of Sacrifice represents recurring happiness, a day of peace and thanksgiving, a day of forgiveness and moral victory, a day of good harvest and remarkable achievements and a day of festive remembrance.

This time of the year is also when Muslims go to Mecca and other holy sites in Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage known as the hajj.

The climax of the hajj is marked by offering a sacrifice to celebrate completing this devotional journey and feeding the poor so they may feel the universal joy of the festival. Saudi Arabia has decided not to allow any pilgrims to come into the country this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This duty isn’t undertaken by pilgrims only, but by all Muslims in every corner of the globe. The sacrifice is only a symbol. It is not the meat or blood that is intended to please God but rather the act as an expression of thankfulness and the affirmation of faith.

The Feast of Sacrifice is called “Kurban Bayrami” in Turkish. This year it starts at noon on Monday and lasts 4 1/2 days. The Turkish government has declared Monday, July 19, as a full holiday. Thus, with the two weekends before and after the feast, the Turkish population will enjoy a nine-day holiday.

The lunar calendar determines the religious dates, which accounts for why the Feast of Sacrifice is observed 10 to 11 days earlier every year.

As mentioned before, the most notable event of this holiday is sacrificing an animal to God. In Turkey, sheep are usually sacrificed.

The sacrificed animal should be at least one year old and healthy. While wealthy people can sacrifice more than one animal, up to seven people can get together to sacrifice a cow.

Although city officials designate certain areas as approved for animal sacrifice and state that violators will be fined, sheep are sacrificed everywhere, in gardens, driveways, backyards and even balconies. This is especially true during the first full day of the holiday, Tuesday. You can also see animals sacrificed on Wednesday and Thursday.

On the first day, everyone wakes up early to make their final preparations. Male family members go to the mosque to perform the special “bayram namazi,” or “festival prayer”, with other male members of the community.

The actual sacrifice begins after the men return from the mosque. The head of the family is expected to perform the sacrifice but can  authorize a butcher to process the meal.

The animal is given water and salt; its eyes are wrapped with a clean rag and its body is positioned to face Mecca. Then, the head of the family recites some verses from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, during the sacrifice.

The meat is divided into three portions: one is given to poor, one to the neighbors and relatives, and the third is kept for the household.

After the sacrifice is complete, everyone dresses in their finest clothes and visits friends, neighbors and  family members. Those “bayram” visits are kept very short. People also mail postcards and make phone calls to those whom they cannot visit in person.

Maids, gardeners, doormen and garbage collectors often receive tips during this holiday as well.