Eid alKebir, or the Big Festival, is the biggest holiday of the year on the Islamic calendar. It has a very interesting and meaningful story, although can be a bit frightening for those who are unfamiliar with it, particularly for former vegetarians like myself.
There are no seatbelts for sheep.
The Eid recreates the story of Abraham and his wife Sarah, who desperately wanted to have children but seemingly could not. Sarah prayed and prayed, and finally, after many years, had a son. But after the son was born, God told Abraham that he had to sacrifice his son. Abraham certainly did not want to do as God said, but he was so faithful and so trusting that he took his son up a mountain and prepared for the sacrifice. In the bible, the son’s name is Isaac, but in the Quran he is Ishmael. Abraham was about to kill Ishmael/Isaac when God stopped him and said he could instead just sacrifice a sheep; his former instructions had only been a test of Abraham’s faith. On the Eid, every married Muslim couple is expected to sacrifice a sheep in order to recreate this story and show their faith in the Lord. Although Christians do not perform sacrifices, this story is equally meaningful as a foundation of the Abrahamic religions.
Sheep are too big to cook inside
I didn’t get invited to see the actual sacrifice, but I did go to a dinner on the Eid, and I saw some families cooking their sheep outside in the morning. I don’t think I’m ready for the full celebration yet; I could barely stomach the pieces of mutton I was given at the dinner, not to mention the intestines and lungs. For now, I’m happy to admire the idea of the holiday, and the sacrifice, from afar.