What is Eid al-Adha like in the United States?
Published: September 15, 2017
Eid al-Adha took place this year from Friday, September 1st , through Monday, September 4th. This four-day holiday is celebrated in remembrance of the huge test of trust that Allah, or God, placed on the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic), when he asked him to sacrifice his son Ishmael (Ismail in Arabic). The prophet Ibrahim decided to obey Allah in a show of his complete trust, but right as he was about to sacrifice Ismail, an angel stopped him and gave him a ram to sacrifice in place of his son.
When my relatives in Egypt call us on Eid (it is customary to call or visit relatives and friends in the spirit of the holiday), they are often curious to hear what we do. A few imagined that there were no other Muslims around us, and therefore assumed that we did nothing. That isn’t quite true, but there are a few differences between Eid celebration in the United States versus in the Middle East and in other Muslim-majority countries.
The first is that for the most part, in the United States, Muslims don’t actually get Eid off. Instead, we must notify our teachers or employers that we won’t be coming into school or work for the day, and arrange to make up homework and projects either before taking off or after returning. In 2015, New York City Muslims successfully campaigned to get Eid al-Adha off for public school students in the city. Some people also choose not to take the day off, and either don’t celebrate or join in on celebrations later in the day or on the weekend.
On the day of, we gather early in the morning to perform a special prayer for the holiday. The whole community tends to show up (in our best clothes!) for these prayers, so often, mosques don’t have sufficient space to hold everyone, and in both cities where I have lived, Muslims have had to rent out either hotel ballrooms, track fields, drained hockey rinks or school gyms in order to have sufficient space for everyone to pray.
What happens after the prayer is really up to the individual or family. Sometimes, friends will visit one another. Other times, they will devote the rest of the day to calling family overseas, and leave visiting friends for the next day. Usually, people also consume a lot of sweets, whether baklava or good old American chocolate. They also try to do something special, like watch a movie or go to a nice restaurant to mark the specialness of the day.
In my community, we also usually rent out a park later and have a potluck or pizza party, with activities like face-painting or bouncy house-bouncing or balloon animal-making for the kids.
While perhaps the spirit of the holiday is not felt as much in the United States, where only a small fraction of the community is celebrating rather than the whole of it, as in Muslim-majority countries, we do still celebrate Eid al-Adha in the United States. And if you know a Muslim, feel free ask if you can join in on the festivities! We would love to share our holiday with you, especially since in the United States, we are easily able to experience the Christmas spirit!