كل عام ش نتم بخير
Eid al-Adha (Eid al-Kebir = "the big holiday") is a special time for all of us Muslims (although mysteriously the gift-giving only takes place on Eid al-Fitr, probably because we are just so excited to eat again after Ramadan.) When I was 5, I used to explain it to my friends as the "Muslim Christmas," and now that I'm 25 I feel more comfortable resurrecting the story of Prophet Abraham / Ibrahim willing to sacrifice his son because Allah told him to.This year I was unable to witness the actual slaughtering of the sheep, usually the juiciest part of the day, watching my older brother slaughter a living being in the name of God, blood splattering everywhere because he's not so skilled at it yet. As was recounted, some blood splattered into my father's beard, as he sat the inning out as an onlooker on the bench.
While Qurbani refers to an animal sacrifice on Eid al-Adha, falling on the 10th day of the month of Dhul Hijja (ذو الحجة), sacrifices of many kinds are widely adopted by many Muslims in the name of Sadaqa. Example: your new baby daughter has beautiful blue eyes. Solution: sacrifice a cow. Example 2: You recently renovated your house and it is beautiful: sacrifice a sheep. Example 3: You are worried about your son's academic progress in school: sacrifice a camel. I think it's a great system, those animals probably would have had miserable lives anyway, being harassed by cats and rabid dogs in the alleyway etc. Don't let the Aristocats fool you, these guys are NOT having that much fun. Plus, all dogs go to heaven, so I would assume the same goes for the sheep.
I tried to videotape the Qurbani once, when my mother decided it was necessary to slaughter an animal for the sake of getting me to eat more butter (a staple in the Kashmiri diet and apparently I was shaming the family by consistently refusing it) and it went smoothly until I almost fainted and the tape shows a sudden abandoning of the camera on my part and faint sounds of screaming and crying as I fled. I do have fond memories of befriending a small sheep I named "fluffie" as a child- we were allowed to bond and play with her in the backyard for a week before Zubair, the local butcher, came to slaughter her for Eid al-Adha.
Of course, the holiday is meant to celebrate Prophet Abraham / Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his own son in the name of God, an exemplary gesture of true faith. The son was spared, but we still commemorate his devotion with the Qurbani sacrifice of a goat / sheep / cow (or camel, apparently?) each year. In fact, a great documentary has been produced on this theme, A Son's Sacrifice.
It really is a special time for all of us- in my time in Morocco, I missed the actual holiday because I was traveling, but upon my return almost everyone I knew showed me the raw footage from their cell phones of 1. animal 2.killing of animal 3. dancing around 4. blood everywhere. It is a time of celebration, of remembrance for our Prophet, and even while celebrating alone in NYC, it's a time to eat cake.