Thousands of Muslims Celebrate Eid at D.C. Convention Center

By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 19, 2007; 6:48 PM

Hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world this week celebrate Eid ul-Adha, a major religious festival commemorating the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

The date when the four-day holiday is observed can vary, but American Muslims this year mark it primarily on Wednesday, with large worship services -- such as one at the D.C. Convention Center, attended by 10,000 people--house-hopping, gifts and games for children and donations of food to the poor. Some still participate in a ritual animal slaughter at a local farm, but most either donate to charity or give to a halal slaughterhouse that donates the meat. It's also common to donate blood during the holiday.

Eid ul-Adha, also called "The Big Eid," for its prominence on the religious calendar, is intertwined with the hajj, or annual pilgrimage to Mecca all Muslims are required to make in their lifetimes if they can afford to. The hajj reenacts the drama of Abraham, who according to Islam was commanded to banish his wife and son, Ishmael, to the desert; years later God tested his commitment by commanding him to sacrifice Ishmael, then halted the killing.

Eid ul-Adha comes at the end of the hajj, which can make the holiday seem more remote to some Muslims than Ramadan, which involves daily fasting. To try and bring home the holiday's message, some mosques have created mini-hajjs, so children can act out the ritual that is performed in Saudi Arabia by about 2 million pilgrims.

Because a key element of the holiday is community, many area mosques will hold group services in one place -- such as the Convention Center. This brings together parts of the community that are sometimes disconnected -- urban and suburban, African-American and immigrant.

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