Studying abroad, many foreign exchange students may be celebrating their culture’s holidays and traditions for the first time away from family. To help host families and others involved in exchange students’ lives, Hudhaymat, one of this year’s YES program participants, shares her family’s tradition for the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha.

Eid al-Adha is one of two major holidays in Islam. This year, the holiday begins the evening of Thursday, August 31 and ends the evening of Friday, September 1. Eid al-Adha is also known as the “Feast of Sacrifice,” and is a time of exchanging gifts, feasting, and giving to those less fortunate. 

“I am from Zanzibar in Tanzania,” Hudhaymat said. “For us, [Eid al-Adha] is a time of meeting with family who is near you.”

Hudhaymat and her family start their day by going to the mosque and attending swalatul Eid, a morning prayer that marks the beginning of the holiday.

Following the prayer, families typically eat together. This meal consists of specialty dishes and, for Hudhaymat, is eaten around lunch time.

“Since we have our meal for lunch, it is possible you can go out to a place you like,” Hudhaymat said. “Most of the time it will be a place where the kid’s course is halal [meat].”

Halal meat is meat that is slaughtered according to Islamic law, which is laid out in the Qu’ran. For halal, an animal is killed swiftly by slitting the throat and draining the blood completely. Today, there are a number of stores across the United States that serve halal meat, especially during the time of Eid al-Adha.

Hudhaymat mentioned the food is prepared all day, and sometimes even the night before, to be ready for the feast.

“People spend their time cooking even earlier [than usual], baking the food for breakfast and such,” Hudhaymat said.

Traditional foods eaten on this day include lamb, chicken, and beef, all of which can be bought as halal meats. In a Muslim home in the United States, you might find a vegetarian dish, such as Italian pasta salad, and a seasoned chicken served over rice.

While the chicken and rice dish is definitely something all families can make to help celebrate with their exchange students, families can ask their student what type of meal he/she is accustomed to back home. If ingredients to make a traditional meal are available in the area, this could be a great experience for the whole family to live a day in the culture of their exchange student, and help him/her feel a little more at home.

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